Writing for the ear

Whatever you have to say, leave the roots on, let them dangle. And the dirt. Just to make clear where they come from.

Charles Olson

Why do we so often try to distance ourselves from what we write by making our writing impersonal? Learners want to know that you’re with them on their journey and that you’re actually talking to them.

You put the work into the writing so that your learner doesn’t have to struggle to interpret what you’ve written. Leave the learner to focus their energy on learning, rather than trying to understand flawed and unclear language.

Instructional designers can learn heaps from script-writers for theatre, film, radio and television. They write spoken language. ‘Writing for the ear’ is what makes their scripts successful.

They avoid long difficult words and get rid of long sentences.

So read your online texts (in labels, resources and activities) and ask yourself “would I speak like this?” If not, re-write, until it sounds like something you would say out loud.

Be very thorough when you proofread. Avoid jargon, unless understanding jargon is one of the aims of the course. If you use jargon, explain the terms in plain English over and over again. Yes, there are plenty alternatives for difficult words!

It’s hard work, but it can make or break your course. You want to pay extra attention if your target group includes English Second Language (ESL) speakers.

Get rid of subordinate clauses. The words WHICH and THAT are strong indicators that you’re about to write a subordinate clause. It’s best to put a full stop instead and begin a new sentence.

Also the use of ‘or, and, nor, but, so’ in the middle of a sentence indicates you are linking two thoughts. Again, these are better written as two sentences instead of one.

Write short sentences in a conversational style.

We want to “hear” you!

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