Writing For e-Learning. It’s a Skill.
When you read other people’s words out loud for a living, you quickly begin to understand that what works on a page doesn’t always sound brilliant to the ear. Writing for spoken word is a tricky one, and it’s a skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. There are some words that trip up voiceover artists ALL THE TIME. Digital. Industrial estate. Swimming pool. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
Writing for e-learning can usually be kept fairly conversational, but sometimes a more formal approach is needed, depending on your audience. A good voiceover can make sense of any script (within reason), and will know when a script calls for a bit of a smile behind the delivery, and when it’s best to be kept completely flat. Either way, some words just don’t add anything – in fact, they can make the whole thing sound clumsy. When you’re writing things down, it’s best to avoid these commonly-used but pointless words to allow the script to flow as fluently as possible.
“Before we commence this course…” – The only time you’d ever hear anyone say the word “commence” out loud is following the words “let battle”. Don’t do it.
“Please wait whilst we move to the next screen…” – Again, “whilst” is archaic. Some people think it looks good written down, but nobody actually says it. “Please hold my drink whilst I nip to the loo.” Nope.
“For further information, ask your line manager to speak to yourself…” – It’s “you”, not “yourself”. Pet hate. Stop it. (And while I’m at it, the same applies to “myself” too.)
Punctuation. Using a comma or a full stop here and there can really help us to know exactly what you mean. It might sound dramatic, but seriously – if you’re carefully explaining how quickly your workforce might expire if they breathe in nitrogen, then some poorly-placed punctuation in a list of dos and don’ts could be the difference between life and death. Of course, at eLearningVoices we know our stuff (and will always give retakes, suggest alternatives, or ask for clarification if we’re not sure) but, ultimately, the script needs to be as clear and as accurate as you can make it. When we read out loud, we will always leave plenty of natural pauses, so feel free to throw in even more punctuation than you think is necessary.
If in doubt, keep it simple. It may be that not everyone who’s working through your e-learning course has English as their first language, but it can be hard to write with that in mind without sounding patronising. In our experience, keeping a script as simple and straightforward as possible, in the plainest English, is key. You can then choose any voiceover artist from our team, with the assurance that each one is experienced enough to bring your words to life.