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3 Tips to Improve your Training Materials

Posted by Alan Magnan on 1/23/14 3:00 AM
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Have you ever stopped reading a piece of technical writing because it became too frustrating to continue? People tend to be bad at giving instructions. Have you ever become lost following someone’s instructions on how to get to their house for the first time? Even pros mess up badly at times. If you create training materials, you are also a technical writer. Here are some tips that will help you create better training materials.

1. Keep your sentences short

Short sentences highlight the ideas that they express. Long sentences hide them. Aim for an average sentence length of 12 words. Go back over your writing and count the length of each sentence. Add up all your totals and divide by the number of sentences. If the average is above 12, you should shorten them. I analyzed a software license agreement. Its average sentence length was 37 words. That could be one of the main reasons people rarely read them. I also analyzed this blog. It has 344 words in 35 sentences. That’s about 10 words per sentence.

2. Use simple, direct words

In technical writing, clarity is more important than great vocabulary. Use words like “send” instead of “disseminate,” or “help” instead of “facilitate,” or “use” instead of “utilize.” Every fancy word you use makes your writing a little bit harder to read. People’s focus should be on learning your instructions, not on marvelling at your vast vocabulary.

3. Use bullet points

When you use bullet points, you leave out extraneous detail. You tend to focus on the most crucial ideas. Here are some benefits of bullet points:

  • They make training materials leaner.
  • They are easier to read.
  • People find them less intimidating than paragraphs.
  • They are less prone to complex writing errors.
  • They allow more white space on a page.

Final Thoughts

Technical writing is a huge discipline. It has thousands of rules. Most of those rules are about the mechanics of stringing words together to make sentences. The three rules in this blog will help you apply those rules more easily to create better written training material. The simpler your writing content is, the simpler it is to apply the rest of the rules of technical writing.

To learn how to write clear, concise, performance-based training materials, attend our Writing Skills for Trainers workshop. It’s full of tips and techniques to help you!

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Alan has been a course leader with Langevin since 1996. He studied business administration at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology. Alan’s philosophy on training is that it can be fun, engaging, and active, but that’s just what’s on the surface. Training must also be practical, realistic, and applicable. Alan is a computer geek at heart and enjoys programming and gaming in his spare time. He’s also a great fan of the outdoors during the summer months, and when the winter moves in, you’ll find him reading, or recording and playing music.

Topics: instructional design

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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