How Can We Simplify Our Writing for Learning?

, , | Colin Dawson

Adult eLearning readers skim read passages of written dialogue.  So how can we simplify our writing so we can keep impatient readers captivated?

FUZZY THINKING HIDES IN LONG SENTENCES AND PARAGRAPHS

So, to avoid fuzzy writing try this practice:

  1. Compose relatively short sentences
  2. Write one-sentence paragraphs.

It’s not easy . . .

Each sentence should be accurate and clear, and each sentence should follow the previous sentence logically.

This practice forces you to disentangle your thoughts.  There’s no hiding.

Sentence by sentence you lay out your key points.

HOW TO DISENTANGLE YOUR THINKING

Let’s look at the process of turning fuzzy thinking into simple writing.

Here’s a fuzzy description of a consultant

John brings energy to his work fuelled by the possibility of what could be paired with an ability to turn ideas into action, notice strengths and potential in others and elevate these characteristics even more.

The first problem with the sentence above is that it has too many ideas.  The second problem is that each idea remains abstract.

Can you picture John?  Can you imagine how an organisation would benefit from his work?  I’m sure I can’t.

To disentangle this sentence:

  1. Cut it into parts (one tiny idea per part)
  2. Scrap what’s unnecessary
  3. Make what’s left over more vivid.

Now, the first step is to break the sentence up:

John brings energy to his work

He is fuelled by the possibility of what could be.

He sees strengths and potential in others

And he elevates these characteristics even more.

Next, comes the most difficult step:  Scrap the sentences that don’t matter and communicate the essence of your message succinctly.

It can help to highlight the most important phrases first.  I highlight:

Energy, a sense of possibility, seeing potential in people, turning ideas into action. 

With a little bit of playing and rephrasing, I get to the sense of the message in two sentences.

John sees possibility everywhere and possibility in everyone.

His energy helps your team turn ideas into action.

Much simpler, right?

But its still a little abstract, so an example can help make it more vivid

John sees possibility everywhere and potential in everyone.  His energy helps your team turn ideas into action.

For instance, when Covid hit, sales at the Brilliant Retailer slumped.  The marketing budget shrunk and the marketing team felt under pressure and deflated.

Mid 2020, John helped organise 3 online brainstorm sessions.  The team came up with low-cost marketing ideas, and sales increased by 7.8% in 2021.

Writing for learning is often a process of subtraction and expansion,

First, pare down writing to its essence.

Next, expand with examples and details to make your message more vivid.

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