Friday, September 18, 2015

Cut the Crap!!! - Tip #79

In my previous tip, I mentioned that learners struggle to focus because there's just too much stimuli that competes to grab their attention. The solution is to make our content or story snappy, relevant and cholesterol-free. In short, cut the crap!!!

Top Reasons to Simplify Content
  1. Learner/User Experience - As I previously mentioned, varied stimuli tug at learners' attention. Whether you're writing a story or just plain learning content, if it does not stand out, forget about getting an audience. When designing content, you have to make it grab the learners' attention upon eye contact.
  2. Business/Corporate Reasons - Simplifying your content makes you polish your message. This means saying only what is relevant to your learner and avoiding unnecessary repetition. Being less verbose conveys the message that you mean business because you don't waste your word and consequently, your learner's time. 
  3. Extra Benefits - The added benefit of snappy story creation is that there are less chances of making mistakes. Reducing your content/story to what only matters to your learners means you edit less.

Cutting the Crap out of Your Story-based e-Learning Content

Writing a snappy story means the removal of what is gratuitously present in it. It means cutting out what is there for no reason at all. When doing it, ask yourself these questions:
  • Will my story stand without this part? If the answer to this question is yes, then that part of your story has to go. In the words of scriptwriter Paul Peditto, "Look to the dialogue you wrote in the first rough draft. Look at it with an unflinching eye. What can be cut? Cut it. Does the scene still make sense? If the answer is yes, it stays cut. If you've left something out that has to go back in, then in it goes. That's the true measure of what's necessary: Does the scene make sense without it?"  
  • Should I include this part? Often times it's not a question of whether you could include a thing or not. It's more a question of should it be included? Stuffing your content to convolution just to make it look meaty only adds to confusion. You don't need to prove that you have a lot of things to say, just get to the point.
  • What will the learners think? Considering what the learners will think of your content/story will make you design it from their perspective. Always remember that you are not there to prove that you're "deep" but to connect with the learners.
In his article SCRIPT GODS MUST DIE: Writing Dialogue - The Cut Instinct, Paul Peditto gives an excellent example of how to cut the crap out of your story. I believe the same principle is applicable when designing plain content. Take a look at the dialogue excerpt and observe how he simplified it.
He reduced it to this:

Simplifying your content is a conscious design choice. It means getting into the shoes of your learners and including only what you have thoroughly assessed and determined they really need. What's not  necessary is dropped and what is retained are only the stuff that matters. I'm not a martial arts artist, but the words of Bruce Lee resonates when he said "absorb what is useful, reject what is useless."


Speider Schneider. The Secrets Of Successful Website Content. March 7, 2014

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning


  1. Great advice regardless of what you're writing - learning content, email, briefing comments etc! Something to consciously work on.

  2. At first I was not sure where the example was headed. But, read on--it comes together and "sticks". And Tanya, I agree - there are many communication opportunities to apply this advice.

  3. At first I wondered where the example was going but read on! It hits the mark. I agree Tanya, good advice for all communication types.


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