Some of you may have attended my webinar this summer about how to improve our writing as instructional designers. I’d like to follow up on a few of the items I covered in that training session in this blog. The main point I’d like to emphasize is that as IDs, we sometimes forget that we’re also creative writers. We need to have narration that is accurate, succinct, and engaging. Easier said than done, though. It takes time, effort, and patience to do this.
President Obama was one of the few presidents who utilized a poet laureate on a fairly regular basis. The President had an impromptu speech in which he wanted to include a poem. The poet laureate didn’t have much time to compose his poem. When he delivered it to the President, it was one full page of text. He apologized to the President and said, “I’m so sorry, but I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” I like this story because it emphasizes how important it is to review, condense, and perfect our writing. Here are some recommendations I have to help us “write much more better.”
Less is “More Better”
We know that we don’t want to bombard learners with a ton of text on the screen or overwhelm them with too much “stuff” going on. This also applies to the narration. Too much narration can make a course feel like it’s going on forever. The solution to endless droning on is to break the content up into digestible chunks and wordsmith it down to its basic core. Clients typically want to include tons of explanations. It’s our job to trim, tweak, cut, and massage that content into easily understood narration (and then only use supporting text on screen).
Avoiding Instructional Design Speak is “More Better”
If you’ve ever seen movies that had a hero and villain, at some point the villain engages in “monologuing,” or talking about the evil plan they have in store for the hero. We can sometimes be guilty of this as IDs. We break into instructional design speak, telling the learners of our plans with the training. Examples of this include: “We’re going to teach you how to ______ on this slide.” or “Select the three buttons we’ve provided for you below.” This may seem like a friendly approach, but we can accomplish the same thing without using ID speak. For example, instead of telling learners you’ve prepared a knowledge check for them, ask them to show what they’ve learned by completing a knowledge check.
Avoiding Bulky Wording is “More Better”
The more words we add to our narration, the more time-consuming it is for the learner. It lengthens the course and adds additional recording expenses. One of the easiest ways to condense our narration is to remove adverbs and adverb phrases. Look through a published novel and you’ll notice that the writer uses very few adverbs. Instead, they use descriptive adjectives. The biggest adverb culprits are “really” and “very.” Take a look at these two sentences: “These extra words basically don’t add very much value. They’re essentially unnecessary.” We could reduce this to “These extra words don’t add value. They’re unnecessary.” The message is still the same, but we’ve shortened it by four unneeded words. Four words here and six words there will add up to a much shorter course, as well as reduced recording expenses.
There are other things we can do to improve our writing. In January, we’re planning on holding a follow-up webinar about improving our writing skills. If you have any sub-topics you’d like us to cover, let us know and we’ll include them. We hope to see you there!
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