Making Impact with Words

When writing for learning our toolbox is limited.

We can’t use body language

We can’t shout!

We can’t even bang on the table to add weight to the message.

We only have our words to communicate our message with passion.

But written words can be powerful.

Want to learn how?

Step #1:  Write with clarity and substance

How can you hold a learner’s attention if you use weak writing that rambles, rattles and prattles?

Writing with substance is not about writing longer articles with longer words.

It’s not about the word count.

Its not about putting in every little detail about the task we are trying to teach.

The opposite is true.

Often long written spells lack substance, too many unimportant ideas compete for the learner’s attention.

Substance is about adding value, exceeding the learners value expectations and moving beyond the echo chamber of repetition.

  • Have a clear purpose for each piece of training content . . . how will you help your learners reach their objectives or solve their problems
  • Create a list or mind map of what you want to include in the training.
  • Review your ideas and narrow down your topic . . . the initial mind map is often too unwieldy (especially if you are working with subject matter experts who want to include every little tip), so cull irrelevant ideas that lead learners away from the main learning
  • Revisit your training’s purpose . . . will your content deliver on your promise?  Will you solve the learning’s problem?  Writing good instructional copy is not about you.  It’s about the learners, their lives, their worries, their challenges, and their dreams.
  • Powerful writing starts with empathy and a drive to help your learners.

So how do you write with substance?

Step #2:  Boost your authority with these content ideas

Focusing on a narrow topic may feel scary.  Do you have enough content?  Will your training module seem flimsy?

No time to panic.

And don’t start adding stuff and semi-related trains of thought.

Instead, use the content thoughts below to turn flimsy into persuasive and authorative content

  • Authority idea #1:  Use specific examples.  My favourite way to boost authority is using examples.

Examples demonstrate how you translate theory into practice.  Examples breathe life into your content by making abstract concepts concrete.  Want an example?  Learning Conversations

  • Authority Idea #2Add compelling statistics.

Statistics are not everybody’s cup of tea. A Some find them boring.

But it’s a mistake to ignore numbers.  Because numbers add substance to an argument.  They show you know your subject.  They make your material more factual.

“Research by Xero Group (2016) shows that only 37% of sales reps read emails that are sent to them

Statistics boost your credibility and appeal to people’s rational side.  But be careful: don’t let the numbers undermine the clarity of your message.  Only add research results and other numbers if they help clarify your ideas.

  • Authority Idea #3:  Support with quotes from experts

Can’t find any statistics to support your statements?

Try using quotes from well-known experts.  A quote shows you are familiar with other work in your field.

Strategically selected quotes support your teaching.  They help you “borrow” other people’s authority to support your own.

Step #3 : Inject power into your words

Does power make you think of dictators, bullies and other dominant personalities?

As Sally Hogshead explains in her book “How the World Sees You”, power lives on a spectrum. Power’s gentle side manifests itself in the parental nudge and in the sports coach, who motivates you to train harder.

Powerful training inspires learners to TAKE ACTION.  Effective instructional writing encourages learners to want to implement the learning in the workplace.


Read this paragraph aloud:

“Your job as a trainer is not simply to write tutorials that share tips, facts, and advice.

A useful tip that is not implemented is like a riveting book that’s never opened.

It’s forgotten and useless.

Instead of acting solely like a trainer dishing out your training notes, you should become a mentor for your learners, a chief of your village, a leader of your tribe.  You should fire up your tribe and jump-start their actions because your learners are waiting for you.”

It feels somewhat flat, right?  That is because the sentences are long and the final sentences use “you should” instead of the imperative.

The alternative version below is more inspirational because it uses shorter sentences and the imperative form (“Fire up your tribe” instead of “You should fire up your trial”.)

“Your job as a trainer is not simply to write tutorials.

 Your job is not to share tips and facts and advice.

A useful training that’s not implemented is like a riveting book that’s never opened.  It’s forgotten and useless.

You’re not simply a trainer.  You’re a mentor for your learners, a chief of your village, a leader of your tribe.  Come on.  Fire up your tribe.  Jump-start their actions.

Your learners are waiting for you.”

Does that inspire you more?