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May 2019

Write Less, But Better: Six Tips for Keeping It Simple

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Shaping the future of learning

When you’re creating new course or programme content, getting the right information across quickly, concisely and in an engaging way falls to the script writer.

If everything's gone well, by the time they start digging into the content, the designer has collaborated with the client subject matter expert(s) and determined exactly what the course should focus on. Suddenly that 20-page source document doesn't feel as daunting.

But now there's the matter of the writing itself...

Some clients want to preserve the language of their source documents, and that takes much of the burden off of the writer. But when rewrites are in order, here are a few things we think you should consider.

Six tips for better writing


Eliminate repetition and over-explanation

Often, source documents repeat the key points over and over, or they provide far more explanation than the learner needs. Some repetition can be useful, and some explanation can be necessary depending on the learners' knowledge base. The bottom line is, both repetition and over-explanation are tedious to read and to write. Keeping both to a minimum will make your writing cleaner and more reader-friendly.

Lead with what's important, and keep what follows relevant and brief

It can be challenging to grab and keep a learner's attention, and this tactic helps ensure that your key points stick.

Keep your sentences short and simple

I love a good compound sentence with plentiful modifiers, but that kind of writing can be really difficult to parse. It's better for learners - and easier on you - to keep things short and sweet (and free of superfluous adverbs).

Make sure it flows

Think about how the individual pieces of content connect. Do they build on each other seamlessly, or do they seem disjointed? If something doesn’t fit in your content’s flow, it may not belong. If you decide it’s not necessary, cut it out!

Avoid passive voice

Your composition teachers were right: Active voice is the way to go. At best, passive voice seems overly formal. At worst, it makes you sound like a college student desperately scrambling to hit the minimum word count. (In other words, it's rambling and unclear.) It wasn't fooling your Lit 101 professor, and it's not effective for elearning.

Edit ruthlessly

Both of my degrees are in creative writing, and my time in peer writing workshops taught me the joys (yes, joys) of the line edit. I find few things more satisfying than fine-tuning a sentence. And I've found that a thorough line edit can do wonders for the flow and clarity of a course's content. Give it a final once-over. Cut what's unnecessary. Admire what's left.



Shaping the future of learning

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