(This is the 7th article of the series of learning design tips from dominKnow KnowledgeBase)
It’s always a good idea to write course content in plain language. It helps more people understand the message easily and quickly.
Following are some tips for writing in plain language:
- Use short sentences (e.g., an average of 15-20 words).
- Use short paragraphs (three to five sentences) covering one idea only.
- Vary your sentence length and structure.
- Use personal pronouns such as “you”, “we”, and “us”.
- Tailor words to your audience (make sure you know who your target audience is and then choose the simplest words to convey meaning to that audience).
- Eliminate jargon (unless your target audience is certain to understand industry or product-specific terms).
- Use an active voice (An active voice states who does what. Some clues to a passive phrase include a form of the verb “to be”, such as “are”, “was”, or “were” and a past participle, often ending with “ed”).
- Give clear instructions in step-by-step order..
- Use transition words to help orient the learner (this or that, first-second-third, however, to summarize, etc.).
- Use positive language.
- Use lists, tables, or illustrations where appropriate.
Here are some resources for more information:
Plain Language.gov – Improving Communication from the U.S. Federal Government to the Public
Plain Language Association International – At the heart of clear writing across disciplines and around the world.
Language Portal of Canada: Tools for Writers.