Does your org let you use a conversational tone in your training?

I recently interviewed Cammy Bean and she said that the #1 challenge that most instructional designers have shared with her is that they're in a stuffy culture that doesn't allow them to use an informal or conversational tone.

Back when I used to do client work, I know I had that experience. Once, I actually had a client remove all of the contractions from the audio script that I wrote. When the voiceover talent read the script, it sounded like a robot!

Does your organization restrict the use of an informal/conversational tone? How do you handle it?

4 Replies
Bob S

Remember the Clinton campaign mantra... "The economy, stupid" Our version is of course... "The learner, stupid". Choice of conversational vs formal language is (or should be) all about what will help the learner most easily connect with and remember the learning.

Here's an anology.... Using stilted language in a course, is like a realtor showing a house painted in garish colors. It doesn't really take away from the value per se, but people are distracted enough by it that their focus is often diverted from the important stuff.

So I help the stakeholders remember that it's not about how they might want to say it, it 's about how the learner needs to hear it in order to accomplish the educational goals. I believe that is your one and only card to play in the discussion.

Hope this helps,


Caveat: In some rare cases the exact wording does matter and the learner must be exposed to it verbatim.... no matter how stilted or confusing. Certain regulatory topics come to mind.

Tim Slade

Great topic Bryan!

I've experienced this exact issue more times than I can count. Here's my take on it...

If my stakeholders don't believe me when I tell them that a conversational tone will make the training sound better and be more effective, I'll make them read the script aloud. It's usually then when they realize that the narration is written too formally.

It's a hard challenge, as most people (SMEs, technical writers, and some instructional designers) are trained to write formal documentation. They don't realize that writing dialog/narration has a different style and voice.

I've actually blogged about this before here.

Bruce Graham

All good advice above.

It's perfectly possible to do "formal", and still add in some of the conversational links between phrases and sentences.

"So - you can now see that..."

"Try to imagine yourself in that situation - what would you do?"

I always ask for one thing from my new clients, (apart from a Purchase Order number.....), and that is to TRUST me.

I had one new client yesterday, who, when I spoke to them over the phone said "...of course we won't say it QUITE like that...", (I may have used the word "crap" when talking about performance....)

My answer was simple - "Why not? That's exactly what you would say to them in a Team Meeting or 1:1 if their sales performance was poor?"

His answer...."Yes - I suppose you're right"

Just make sure that the tone reflects the organisational/learner norms, and not the norms of the person writing/paying for the course - they may not be the same.