Style Guide for eLearning

Hello Articulate community!

My organization is new to the eLearning scene and we're trying to create a unified voice. Our SMEs are used to writing memorandum and other legal documents, but we are looking for a style guide that has a more informal voice. 

When you're designing eLearnings, is there a style guide you use? Which have you seen work well? I was looking at the AMA Handbook of Business Writing or the Wall Street Journal Guide. Any other thoughts or suggestions?

11 Replies
David Anderson

Hey Trevor - I like to create visual style guides that show specific image, font, and layout styles rather than go with a wordy document. 

Here are a few good articles to help you get going:

Why You Need an E-Learning Style Guide

The Why and How of Building an E-Learning Style Guide in Storyline

What to Include in an E-Learning Style Guide

Trevor Peglowski

We've got most of the style guide down, but now I'm really looking for a discussion about the way you write in your elearnings. We have a few SMEs who want to use the oxford comma, and some who don't. We have some who prefer periods at the end of every bullet, and some who don't.

Where do most of you land on thee kinds of questions?

W Gill

OXFORD Comma is a must.  

An example is this:

The street was filled with angry protesters, shouting spectators and police. In this sentence, I believe it means that the police and spectators were BOTH shouting. 

However, I wanted it to say that only the spectators were shouting and for that I need an oxford comma. The street was filled with angry protesters, shouting spectators, and police.

How about this article that could cost millions of dollars where an oxford comma was NOT used.

You'll never satisfy everyone, but you'll at least convey your message accordingly.

Ray Cole

I have written style guides at several places where I've worked. I generally use and recommend the Chicago Manual of Style as the base set of guidelines, and then add to that base guidelines that are more specific to writing for e-learning or live training. Note: for those that are wondering, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends the serial (Oxford) comma in lists of three or more items. Its rules for terminal punctuation on bullet lists is a bit complicated, but eventually you get used to it.

Here are some of the additions to the Chicago Manual of Style that I usually call out in a style guide:

  • Use active voice.
  • Address the learner directly in second person ("You"). For example, write "In this course, you will learn...", not "This course will cover..."
  • Avoid jargon and fancy words as much as possible; write in simple English.
  • In on-screen directions, refer to screen objects (for example, any button or link) in bold font (not quotes or italics).
  • Refer to objects by their names. For example, write "Click Next to continue." Do not write "Click the Next button to continue." Also, since the label on the button is its proper name, capitalize it.
  • Use italics for emphasis, not underlines since underlined text is too easily mistaken for clickable text.
  • Avoid empty phrases. For example, instead of "It is important to remember that you should never enter the red zone without a partner," just write "Do not enter the red zone without a partner." (or, more informally, "Don't enter the red zone without a partner.")

There's usually lots more, but this gives a flavor of how I usually approach the task of creating a style guide: start with a universally-recognized guide, and then layer over it any special learning-specific guidelines you want your team to follow.