Write Right

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“Write Right”

When designing learning events, such as a modlette, we usually need to develop some text content. This is a key part of the offering and essential to ensure that it is addictive, engaging and compelling.  The following tips will help you to keep your learner glued to your screen.

Open with questions that get the reader to say “Yes”

The idea is that the longer you get the reader to say “yes” to your learning statements the more likely they are to take them into long term memory.

 

Double tap the “Enter” button every 1-2 sentences.

As you know, hitting “Enter” or “Return” twice leaves a space between paragraphs.  But just because that space is void of words, does not mean it doesn’t serve a purpose.

Just as photographers and designers use negative space to create a focal point, writers can use white space to create emphasis and draw attention to something that’s important.

White space also makes text appear less intimidating and more readable.  It structures the message in a polished, elegant frame that invites readers to get involved.

 

  1. Bold your key points

Bolding key points will quickly point learners to the information you absolute need them to know.  In fact, in text-formatting of any kind italicising, underlining, capitalising, will help you capture and maintain a reader’s attention. That happens because our minds are hardwired to notice change.

Imaging watching a play go from monologue to a dialogue in the same scene.

Something new, thinks your subconscious, something that stands out.  Let’s focus.

 

  1. Isolate important information using bullet points or pics

Pity the learners.  This means go easy on them when you write.  Consider that they have to focus on and instantly make sense of every word and every little mark you put in front of them.  And they have to do it all on-line, where attention is at a premium.  So help them out.

Bullets and numbered lists will:

  • Organise your text, making it more scanable and digestible.
  • Highlight your key points and other important bits of information.

 

  1. Start sentences with “Imagine”, “Remember”, or “Picture this. . .”

These words are triggers.  They let learners know you’re about to tell them a story, jog their memory, or paint them a picture.  Learners love that stuff.  Always have, we all love stories from birth.

Incorporate the word “because” as often as possible

“Because” is another trigger word.  It lets learners know they’re about to hear a justification – a reason why – which, according to renowned researcher and author, Dr Robert Craldini, is great at getting people to nod their heads.

“A well-known principle of human behaviour says that when we ask someone to do us a favour we will be more successful if we provide a reason.  People simply like to have reasons for what they do,” writes Craldini.

 

  1. Write sentences in active voice

Nothing kills your learning text quite like the use of a passive voice.  A simple way to combat this?  Write in active voice.

Active voice means the subject of each sentence is doing the action rather than receiving it.  The latter would be passive voice.

For example:

Active:      The supervisor carried out quality checks

Passive:    Quality checks were carried out by the supervisor.

See how much stronger and more confident the active voice is?  Its counterpart is comparatively weak and deflated.  Passive voice is just blah!

To passive-proof your text, start by doing a CTRL-F for the word “by”.  That’ll quickly highlight sentences in which the subject might be receiving the action rather than doing it.

8.  Rewrite everything in the second person

Second person is the most engaging narrative mode because it’s the most personal.  Pronouns like “you”, “your”, and “yours” will help the learner see themselves in your copy and, consequently in the story you are presenting as part of the learning.

 

9.   Count your adverbs and use only a quarter of them

Adverbs are very, very good at weakening your writing.  See?

If you want your writing to grab your learner’s attention, replace that mediocre adverb – verb combination with a single punch, potent verb.  For example, instead of writing “she’s very angry”, you could write, “She’s irate”.  Or instead of writing “adverbs are very, very good at weakening your writing” you can write “adverbs sabotage compelling sentences.”

Editing isn’t easy.  It takes will-power and character to edit your own instructional writing.  But remember, you’re doing it for a reason; to make your writing stronger and clearer.  In the end your edits will take time and effort, but they will help you meet your objectives of having your learners engaged and absorbing your teaching.

So, before you commit your text to your next modlette, ensure you use these tips to edit your work.

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