The 3 Writing Skills You Need to Create Effective Lessons
[feat-img-left] No course can be successful without quality content, and good course developers know that learner engagement and instructional effectiveness depend on how coherent and appealing the lessons are. This means that you need to polish off your writing skills—you want your learners to be engaged with your text, not distracted by it. Here are three ways to improve your writing for eLearning courses.
Become a master of grammar.
Bad grammar is like a fly in your soup—just a little speck, and the whole pot is ruined. A solid grasp of language and sentence construction lends a sense of legitimacy to your content, while a few stray commas can turn learners off. While not everyone has a knack for grammar, it’s important to at least grasp the most common mistakes and learn rules for avoiding them. Here are three rules of thumb:
  • Check for subject-verb agreement. If your subject is singular, your verb should be, too. Example: This course needs work is correct, while This course need work is an easily overlooked mistake that makes even the least picky learner cringe.
  • Avoid the passive voice. What word is doing the action in your sentence? Put that word near the beginning. Example: I avoid the passive voice is nice and active. The passive voice is avoided by me is awkward, clunky, and takes up unnecessary space.
  • Run a spell check. After your word processing software gives you the all-clear, do a search for the most commonly misused homonyms (such as they’re, there, and their) to make sure you’ve nailed them all.
Tell a compelling story.
For fiction writers, Freytag’s Triangle is considered the golden rule of good storytelling. The story begins with an inciting event, the action ramps up to a major conflict, and then things start to cool off as the story approaches a resolution. This formula works wonders for keeping learners engaged in course content as well. For example, a training on effective public speaking could be framed with a narrative about a leader who is struggling to overcome stage fright. The inciting event? A bombed presentation. The conflict? Anxiety leading up to a major speech. The resolution? The leader applies strategies taught in the course to nail the event and gain more confidence. You’ve got all the ingredients for an engaging story that will keep learners motivated to keep going and less likely to forget what they learned once they leave the training.
Edit like a pro.
The most common tip course developers will offer about developing eLearning modules is to be wary of using too much text. Online learners tend to skim, and their engagement level often hinges on how much they’re expected to read. Give them a few paragraphs too many and you’ll lose them. The best writing is concise and precise. To keep it short and avoid ambiguity, remove unnecessary modifiers, strip out repetitive phrases, and check to see if lengthy explanations can be condensed. Then do another edit to tighten it even more. Here’s an example:
  • Original: In order to become a really successful leader, a person must have a number of good qualities. The first quality is good communication skills. The second is emotional intelligence skills.
  • First edit: Successful leaders have a number of good qualities, including excellent communication skills and emotional intelligence skills.
  • Second pass: Successful leaders possess both excellent communication skills and emotional intelligence.
So spend some time polishing your text to make it as coherent and appealing as possible. If you don’t have confidence in your writing abilities, you may opt to have another person—preferably an editor—lay their eyes on your course to make sure it’s up to snuff. Either way, you’ll be on track for creating lessons that are engaging, clear, and fun.
For more ways to engage your learners, check out these blog posts:

Five Tips for Creating Successful Instructional Videos

Once Upon a Time, Stories Transformed eLearning

Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence: Can They Be Learned?

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