It’s an old quote that’s still true – it’s not easy to get your message across in a few words.

But, that’s exactly what we need to do in online learning – make complex ideas bite sized to engage learners and fit the parameters of development tools.

More recently, American writing guru William Zinsser claimed any topic can be covered in 300 words. He might be right, but finding the best 300 words takes time and skill.

A short piece of writing doesn’t necessarily mean a short writing engagement, but there are techniques you can use to keep the waffle factor at bay. The key is practice – the more you do it, the easier (and faster) it gets.

Try these tips that help us make long stories short.

Use templates

Decide word lengths before you start. It’s much easier than cutting content during build.

Write long first

Then review and cull to fit the template. The more you do this, the faster you’ll get, and you’ll find your first drafts get shorter too.

For complete objectivity, have someone else do the review.

Say it out loud

If you can’t speak the idea easily, it will be hard to read. With practice, you’ll be able to do this in your head which works better in an open-plan office!

Step away

Sleep on it and look again. Fresh eyes are your best critics.

Tricky issue?

Explain it verbally to someone who knows nothing about it. Check they understand then write down what you said. Nothing more.

It takes time to perfect the skill of short writing for online learning. We’ve been doing it for years so get in touch if you’d like to find out more about making short messages count.

[And that’s 287 words for those of you who are checking!]