There is nothing worse than having to read a wordy advertising campaign. Marketers know that the best way to capture their audience and get points across is through concise and meaningful text. We should, for better eLearning course design, grasp this concept and create content that will not derail a learner’s engagement.
While we need to ensure the learning objectives are met, this often means adding more details through more words. The risk in this is that learners might miss pertinent information hidden in the text. Concise writing uses the strongest words possible to convey your message and eliminate wordiness. Given the impact on sales, marketers have perfected the art of concise copywriting and are an ideal industry to borrow from to ensure our learning messages are conveyed.
Copy Tips for eLearning Course Design
Be clear in your thinking.
Before moving forward with your eLearning course design, think about what you are trying to say. Being crystal clear in your learning objectives will translate into clarity in your writing. Doing otherwise might result in a confusing and directionless eLearning.
Replace phrases with applicable words.
Keep your phrases short and concise and replace them with synonymous words where possible. Do this to declutter your content and reduce jargon for shorter word count and better understanding and retention.
Consider if your audience, not just your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), understand the terms and language that you use. Often courses become over-laden with verbose text (as in this example sentence), or more plainly, the words are too complex. This study proves that less text encourages better learning.
Here are just a few commonly used phrases and their more suitable replacements.
- “Figure out” with”decide”
- “Ask the question” with”ask”
- “In the near future” with “soon”
- “Revert back” with “revert”
- “In regard to” with”concerning”
Avoid the passive voice.
As much as possible, write most of your eLearning in active voice. Eliminate the false notion that passive voice makes for intellectual sounding text and push back on your SMEs who insist on it. Passive voice rearranges the normal subject-predicate flow of a sentence. Active voice makes for clear and concise sentences. Here is an example:
Passive Voice: The Signing Authority policy must be adhered to.
Active Voice: All managers must adhere to the Signing Authority policy.
Notice how passive voice is less clear? Often technical content, legal matters and compliance-related training tend to be passive voice. To ensure learner understanding, strive to use active voice so it’s clear who is involved.
Eliminate redundant content.
Remove unnecessary phrases, prepositions, repetitions, adverbs, corporate lingo, and elaborate words. Reduce these to the minimum to avoid clutter and produce less superfluous content.
Pay attention to formatting.
In working your eLearning course design, you want your content to look “clean” and to the point. Look at your favorite website that compels you to buy. Notice how it uses shorter sentences and carefully chosen formatting? You can do the same and shorten your paragraphs to no more than 3-6 lines. Also, break up your content with subheadings and bullet lists and include more white space. Clean formatting makes your eLearning easier to read.
We tend to be shortsighted when it comes to our own writing weak spots. Even after proofreading multiple times over, we still miss sentences that need reworking. That is where the grammar check tool in MS Word comes in handy. Google also rolled out its own version of it this year. These tools help you spot areas in your text where you can be more concise. Grammarly is another great option.
Replace words with pictures.
Lastly, effective marketers use images to convey their message and eliminate the needs for words completely at times. Consider the most effective billboard advertisements you’ve seen and notice how the images depict the concept. A high-impact visual can extend learner understanding and emotion. For example, in a child trafficking awareness course, the key visual was a vulnerable child with a UPC code on it. This visual powerfully speaks without words.
Excess words detract from learner engagement. Adopting concise writing techniques in our eLearning course design will ensure meaningful information does not get lost in a sea of scattered phrases.
Enjoyed this post? You may also enjoy this webinar recording, Writing Much More Better.
About the Author
Danielle Wallace is the chief learning strategist at Beyond the Sky, a provider of custom learning solutions. Previously, as a marketing executive with Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, she learned strategic marketing principles, which she applies to learning and development to create learning that sticks. Danielle is also a certified training and development professional (CTDP) and her thought leadership, free checklists and monthly infographics can be found at www.BeyondtheSky.ca
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