for Instructional Design
There are at least ten types of writing that instructional designers might be
involved in as part of their jobs.
ARTISTThe thesis of this book by Austin Kleon, is that you should find concepts and
works that inspire, then use in your own way and make it your own.
“Every new idea is just a mashup or
remix of one or more previous ideas.”
Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist
Many psychologists agree that creativity is not about doing something
original. Rather, it’s about mixing existing ideas in a new way.
Of course, no one is talking about plagiarism!
We’re talking about borrowing from things that get you inspired and making
them your own. The art comes in when you make it your own.
HOLLYWOOD UX & UI
Here are four industries you can look to for writing inspiration and ideas.
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Advertisers do a lot of research to learn about their audience. You should too.
Are you writing for an audience of baristas or an audience at a conservative
financial institution? Hang out with the audience and use their words.
2. FIND THE RIGHT VOICE
Advertisers find the right voice for the audience. Not your voice, but the voice
that will connect. Will you write as the boss, the colleague or the teacher?
Congratulations on the
new job! I was
embarrassed my first
day because I couldn’t
answer all of the
about the menu.
Definitely study it
The first task for a new
waiter-in training is to
memorize the menu. In
any given day, a waiter
will receive numerous
questions about the
food choices and he or
she must be prepared
3. PASSIVE TO ACTIVE
Passive sentence construction isn’t wrong, it’s just not very dynamic.
Advertisers speak directly to their audience with an active construction.
The subject is doing the action.
I heard it through the grapevine.
The subject is NOT taking a direct action.
It was heard by me through the grapevine.
I’m a hot air balloon, I could go to
A hot air balloon going to space is
analogous to me.
Pharrell Williams would not have had a big hit if he used passive sentence
Here’s the third sentence from the song Happy in both active and passive
Dr. Oz says one thing
may be more vital than exercise
The headlines pique the reader’s curiosity.
eMail Ettiquette for New Employees
How to Achieve Active Listening
Hand Washing in the Hospital
The Boss Wasn’t Happy with This eMail
This Surprising Technique
Increased Sales by 50%
Did you know hand washing
could save your life?
Three boring course titles made into more interesting headlines.
5. USE TEASERS IN MENUS
to get us
We can use teasers in menus and title screens. Here is an example menu
from a course I made for physicians.
8. REMOVE TO IMPROVE
The user experience and user interface community have ideas for writing
microcopy– the small instructions and messages that users need.
In the assignment for this chapter, you actually
write two assignments in one: a set of
instructions and an information structure (such
as description, definition, or other) integrated
within those instructions.
In this assignment, you will write a set of
instructions. Integrate a description or definition
within the instructions.
Deleting extraneous words is one way to supercharge your microcopy and all
of your writing. Here is the before and after.
On the left are terms and on the right
are definitions. Drag the correct term
to its definition.
Drag the term on the left to its correct
definition on the right.
Before and after for eLearning microcopy.
9. ADD PERSONALITY
You have a past timer running. Travel back in time
to edit it (or just click this link).
Have you noticed this trend for giving user interfaces some personality? This
example is from Harvest Time Tracking software. We can do that too.
This type of message will only frustrate users and learners. It’s impossible to
understand and has no personality. It’s from an error in a shopping cart.
We’re sorry to see you go, but hey, no hard
feelings, hopefully we will see you back one day.
Here’s another example message with personality from when I unsubscribed
from a newsletter.
Google displays this friendly notice when you’ve checked your notices.
Are you getting my monthly newsletter? If not, you’re missing out on articles,
tips and freebies that will make you better at designing learning experiences.
Go to theelearningcoach.com and enter your email address in the form in the
upper right. Your email address will never be shared.