We discussed how style guides are significant in developing a course that is consistent and polished, and helps retain learners’ interest and deliver effective e-learning, in our past blogs. Style guides, as we discussed, save development time, make communication smoother, and help in creating products with consistent code and design. In my previous blog “Creating a Style Guide for Effective E-Learning Experience”, grammar, formatting, and miscellaneous elements were listed as the three key focus areas in style guides. Today, let’s discuss the basic components of what can be classified as the ‘grammatical components’ of a style guide.
Importance of Grammar
Grammar is the first building block that sets the ‘house style’ of institutions (e-learning) and lays the visual and auditory rules of presentation for e-learning content and matter. From the extensive components of style guides on grammar, we pick up 10 critical components that institutions should elaborate and lay rules to help deliver consistency that is essential for impactful learning.
1. Abbreviations, contractions, and acronyms
This is one of the first requirements for ensuring uniformity in content. Style guides need to indicate the usage of abbreviations. Rules can include:
- Using full stops after abbreviations, contractions, or acronyms
- Writing style of acronyms (words formed from the initial letters of words)
- Not having space between letters (abbreviations/acronyms)
- Rules on spelling out acronyms in full, the first time they are used, etc.
Capitalization rules need to be set as there is a general tendency to capitalize words considered important, unnecessarily. Such rules can provide a common framework.
- Do not use capital letters unless absolutely necessary (Starting words in a sentence and nouns)
- Use lower case as much as possible
Writing or referring to numbers can be done in different ways and can confuse or irritate readers/learners. It is advisable to have common rules governing writing of numbers in slides and e-learning courses.
- Rules on either spelling out whole-number words from one to ten; using figures for numbers above ten
- Usage of dates such as writing the day before the month; not using ‘th’ etc. with dates – just the number and month
- Usage of am/pm and consistency in the use of either a 12- or 24-hour clock
Details such as using capital letters to start bullets; not ending bulleted lists with a full stop; placing a colon at the end of the sentence introducing the list, etc., have to be agreed upon and ensured uniformly across teams.
Set rules for paragraphs such as using one-line space between them. Don’t indent the first line of paragraphs. The usage of short paragraphs as large blocks of text put readers to sleep ensures that content being created by different teams at different points of time are also uniform.
- Use as little punctuation as necessary for retaining the meaning of sentences
- Set rules governing the usage of colon and semicolon
- Set guidelines on where commas need to be used
- The preferred usage of quotation marks (using single quotation marks for direct speech or a quote, and double quotation marks for direct speech or a quote within that; no quotation marks if the quote is displayed, etc.)
7. Highlighting/emphasizing text
- Usage of bold, italics, and underline also need to be standardized. Generally, the usage of bold to emphasize text (name, a deadline date, or another key piece of information) that you wish to stand out is to be used sparingly.
- Italics are mostly used to flag part of your text which is different from that surrounding it (such as titles of books, journals, plays, films, musical works, etc.). If detailed, they ensure uniformity.
8. Sentence structuring
Instructional designers are well aware that setting up learning objectives is a critical part of e-learning courses. Establishing parallelism in sentences and uniformity gives an audio-visual finesse that variations don’t.
9. Voice of the verb
Style guides should guide IDs on the preferred voice – Active voice or Passive voice – of the institution. It sets the tone the e-learning courses/modules should follow.
10. Referencing styles
Different institutions have different referencing preferences. It is imperative that style guides set down how books, articles, web links, etc., are to be cited in courses and modules.
While correct grammar might seem very old-fashioned, grammatical mistakes in any e-learning can easily distract learners’ concentration, are frowned upon, and cast doubts on the course itself. Correct and consistent grammatical usage and style of writing enhance both learners’ and clients’ confidence in the professionalism of the e-learning company. Style guides make it easier for different individuals and teams to follow a common framework across time and clients, thus saving time and overheads.