To help you achieve the balance you need, here are 3 sure-fire tips for reducing unnecessary words within your course, and preserving precious screen real-estate:
- Remove Redundant Instructions
A multi-award winning pet hate in the list ‘If there’s one thing I never want to see again in an Elearning module, it’s…’ is redundant instructions. Of course, when figuring out what ‘redundant’ equates to, you do need to consider your audience: for example, there may indeed be a need for a ‘How to Use This Online Learning Module’ section if you are targeting a group of learners who have never taken an online course before. However, rest assured that, as long as your learner can read, instructions to the effect of ‘Press Next to Continue’ or ‘Press Close to Exit’ are pretty much never necessary.
- Maximize the short and sweet
Your learners scan, not read, your online content, and on top of this, their attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. As a result, they have an overwhelming preference for short sentences, and short paragraphs. What is short, though? Although you should, of course, vary your sentence length to ensure you avoid sounded stilted, if your sentence length average hovers around 8 words, your learners will understand 100% of each sentence’s meaning. Any longer than this, and you risk losing them.
And from a paragraph perspective? Try not to go above 3-4 sentences per paragraph, and apparently, the width of your paragraph may also be important.
Even better though, replace paragraphs entirely with bullet points and lists. This will increase the amount of white space in your course, which in turns helps to increase its readability and attractiveness to learners.
- Reduce formality, increase simplicity
What may work in a technical or academic textbook is basically the opposite of what works online (if, indeed, it ever worked in the first place!). Online, learners expect simple, conversational and friendly language, with far less formality that you would expect elsewhere. For example:
- Academic-technical: There are a plethora of reasons that the sky retains a purple-blue hue…
- Online example: Want to know why the sky’s blue? Here’s why…
Likewise, technical or academic courses tend to be littered with too many adjectives, unnecessary repetition, and filler words such as ‘In conclusion,’ ‘from this perspective’ etc. Try to limit, or altogether avoid, these in your online writing. In a nutshell: the simpler, the better.
Learning designers transitioning from ILT and paper-based training will find that they may have much to learn when writing for online. However, if you follow these few simple tips, your writing will soon transform into engaging online content.