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Drop the corporate


E-learning consultant Clive Shepherd says

do your learners a favour and write like a


Words are one of our most useful tools as

designers of digital content. We could use

them to show how knowledgeable and

articulate we are or we could put ourselves in

the learner's shoes and communicate in a

way that makes their job much easier. In this

article, I will argue for the latter: plain, simple

English, written by friendly, considerate

people who want to help people learn.

People will learn better if you use

plain English

The Plain English Campaign has been

campaigning for crystal-clear communication

since 1979. Sara Perkins explains: 'There is

plenty of evidence to support what common

sense tells us anyway: that communications

written in plain English are more successful

than ones that baffle readers with verbiage

and jargon. That does not mean you can't use

technical terms or long words, as long as

you're confident your readership will

understand them. But you still have to write

clearly so you can be understood first time.'

You should use plain English whether your

topic is technical or not, and whether your

learners are beginners or advanced. It's a

common fallacy that plain English means

dumbing down your content for the sake of

the ignorant, but in fact everyone benefits

from simple language. Of course, you will

need to use unfamiliar technical terms from

time to time - just make sure you define them

carefully and provide examples of how they

should be used.

Note that plain English is not necessarily

more colloquial, just simpler. You should be

careful using colloquial expressions when

communicating with people for whom

English is a second language or who may

have a different cultural background.

People will learn better if you use

a friendly, conversational tone

The 'personalisation principle' holds that you

will achieve better results by adopting a

friendly, conversational tone than you will with

a more formal approach. Ruth Clark and

Richard Mayer's research demonstrated that

learning improved when a conversational

style was used, which they attributed to the

fact that this more closely resembled a

person-to-person interaction.


Clive Shepherd


The More Than Blended Learning


Read more


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