The official advice in creative writing is to show don’t tell.
However, in practice, we often show AND tell.
Telling populates most training writing, filling it with factual statements that eventually cram up the learner’s brain.
Showing means using sensory details and describing actions to direct a mental movie in your learner’s mind.
“Customers complaints should always be questioned to determine the real problem.”
It’s an example of telling because we can’t visualise it. It’s a statement of “thou shall do it this way!”
Here’s another way to share the same learning . . .
“After hearing the Customer’s story, Bridget used her vocabulary of open questions to find out what the Customer was feeling in order to find the best solution.”
Showing requires a designer’s ingenuity to find an example that can demonstrate that a statement is true. It not only increases credibility but also increases learning by making the writing more interesting.
So, the next time you make a generic or abstract statement ask yourself:
How can I demonstrate this is true?
Can I share an example or two?
In a lot of eLearning, you find that designers are still writing learning in the way we used to write Standard Operating Procedures. Remember how boring these used to be (unless you were a lawyer!).
Why were they so boring?
Because you couldn’t visualise the things they wanted you to learn.
To make your writing for learning more fascinating:
For instance, “To find the Customer’s needs, ask open questions.”
“Bridget had a great way with Customers. She would introduce open questions into the conversation and in no time the Customer was sharing all sorts of helpful information. This helped Bridget match the Customer’s needs to the right product. Bridget had more satisfied Customers than anybody else on the staff.”
Note how the paragraph gives you a glimpse of how Bridget’s personality and technique made her so successful.