“Writing is the star of the show”

The title of this commentary is a quote from an article written by Harry Calhoun, called Why is writing for e-learning different?  at


eLearning that engages the learner is developed with good instructional methodology, relevant content, an easy to use interface, pleasing and relevant images and writing that flows and connects. However, when facilitating workshops for aspiring eLearning developers, the writing has often been the most difficult skill for people to grasp. Part of the challenge is unlearning how we are expected to write.

Writing for eLearning can be opposite to what is expected for other writing in an organisation. When I think of reports and other formal documents, I am expected to write in the third person. The tone of the document is very formal and information is often organised sequentially, from earliest to latest. When writing for eLearning, the style of writing I have found to be most successful is informal, using an active voice, and written in the first person – it speaks direct to the learner.

The writing also needs to be structured for easy reading and comprehension. For example, using a newspaper style, with the essential important information first. Opening sentences for paragraphs (if there are any) should be brief and descriptive. The writing allows the learner to quickly grasp what is relevant.

The visual display of the writing should also support the learner. Good use of white space around small chunks of text enables the reader to select and focus on the important elements. The use of justified text, too much punctuation and ALL CAPITALS can reduce the readability of text on the screen.

Writing for eLearning uses only those words that are necessary, in a way that is clear to the learner. This can be a challenge for someone who has spent many years writing formal reports.


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