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How to Write for Instructional Design

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

As an instructional designer, the amount of writing that you do may surprise you. From high-level strategies, scripts and storyboards. Writing does play a core role in instructional design.

eLearning that is boring, unorganised or overwhelming is unlikely to be effective. A well-written course can avoid this.

Over the years, our team of instructional designers have adopted many writing strategies. They have come from:

  • Books that we have read.
  • Mistakes that we have learnt from.
  • Feedback that we have received.
  • Inspiration from others in the industry. 
What you write and how you write it can make or break your learning solution (from our perspective). This has inspired us to share our top writing strategies for instructional design. 

1. Write to Your Learner’s ‘Why’

If your learner does not understand why your solution will add value to them, why would they engage with it?

Imagine someone handing you a book and telling you to read it with no explanation about why. Let us be real, unless you were curious, the book would end up dusty on a shelf. If the book promised to solve a problem or elicit a desired emotion, it would be a different story.

So, how do you understand what your learners want? Well, if you do not know, human-centred design can help. This approach enables you to put your learner at the heart of your solution and write in a way that engages them.

Keep your learners front of mind while you write. Your tone and style will adjust to ‘speak to them’ and the power and impact of your solution will increase.

If your learners work in a casual environment and like to have a joke, write in a way that is casual rather than formal.

Our team also recommends the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. It helps us to write in line with the motivations of our learners. We often identify how its teachings can improve the value of our writing.

Practical Actions

2. Keep it Short and Simple

Think about how you can communicate what you are writing in the simplest way. If you can explain something in one sentence over a paragraph, do it.

Ask yourself, ‘What is the simplest and shortest way to communicate this?’

Here is an example of how we improved our instruction text.

The Hemingway App is a great free tool that you can use to simplify your writing (we used it on this blog). You can copy your writing into the editor and it will help you to improve its readability by:

  • Limiting adverbs.
  • Limiting the use of a passive voice.
  • Using simple alternatives.
  • Making sentences easier to read.

Screenshot of Hemingway App (Hemingway App, 2020).

Practical Actions

  • Ask yourself, ‘What is the simplest and shortest way to communicate this?’.
  • Use the Hemingway App to improve the readability of your writing.
3. Be Mindful of Jargon and Slang

Be mindful of the jargon and slang that you incorporate into your writing.

Ask yourself, ‘Will my learners understand this word/statement?’

We sometimes incorporate Australian slang into our writing. This may come across as gibberish to other nationalities. To combat this, we remove slang or provide the global translations. This results in our readers having an equal chance of understanding the content.

Practical Actions

  • Avoid using jargon or slang that your learner will not understand. 
  • Ask yourself, ‘Will my learners understand this word/statement?’. 
4. Tell a Story

Have you ever listened to a speaker and as soon as they started telling a story, you felt drawn in? Storytelling is powerful and as humans we crave a good story.

Think about when you read a good book. You enter another world, in that moment forgetting reality around you. When you are reading a good book, you do not usually forget the plot of the story. Why should it be different for learning outcomes?

Want to learn more about storytelling? Read our blog on The Power of Storytelling in eLearning.

Practical Actions

That is it for this blog on How to Write for Instructional Design. We hope that you can apply the practical actions to your projects.

Want to learn more about this topic? Watch our YouTube episode on How to Write Scenarios for Learning Design. In this episode we speak to Nicole Papaioannou Lugara. Nicole's focus is on performance-focused training and learning design. She has written and storyboarded 300+ instructional video scripts. Nicole has great experience with writing for learning design and added so much value to our team through the knowledge that she shared (and we think that you will gain value too!). 

Want to connect with our team about writing for instructional design? Contact our passionate founder Kim by:

  • Emailing
  • Connecting with her on LinkedIn.

Hemingway App. (2020). Hemingway Editor. Retrieved from

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