E-learning Style Guide: Ensuring Consistency in Online Courses

How can you create a "perfect online course" that is devoid of grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes? What does it take to ensure consistency in an eLearning course? Well, you need to use a style guide.

What Is a Style Guide?

A style guide (also known as style manual) is a document that includes a set of standards that define how writers should handle writing issues in an eLearning course. It deals with various aspects such as:

  • Grammar
  • Usage of Words
  • Fonts
  • Formatting
  • Page Layout
  • Graphic Design

E-learning Style Guide: Ensuring Consistency in Online Courses

Why is Style Guide Important in E-learning Design?

A style guide helps ensure consistency in the course, as it enables you to use the same style, language and fonts, throughout the digital course. Using a style guide minimizes confusion in the usage of certain abbreviations, symbols, grammar etc. and makes your course look professional. It guides instructional designers by giving them a unified image or direction – be it the choice of words or font style.

CONSISTENCY IS THE MANTRA

Components of a Style Guide

As seen earlier, a style guide contains guidelines pertaining to the use of grammar, sentence structuring and style. There are four sections in a typical Style Guide:

  • Grammar
  • Sentence structuring
  • Style, and
  • Other guidelines

I. Grammar

1. Usage of Abbreviations

Use a single period when a sentence ends in an abbreviation.

There are two things to be noted in this regard. Firstly, if the last letter of the abbreviation and the last letter of the ‘original’ word are the same, do not follow it with a period.

Example: Ltd for Limited

Secondly, if the last letter of the abbreviation and the last letter of the word are not the same, follow it with a period.

Example: Co. for company

2. Rule Regarding Acronyms

Acronyms are written without periods or spaces between the letters.

Example: UN for United Nations

3. Capitalization of Words

Capitalize proper nouns and all words in titles except articles, prepositions and conjunctions.

Example: Selling the Features and Benefits of a Laptop

With hyphenated compound words, always capitalize the first element; do not capitalize the second element unless it is a trademarked word capitalized in that way.

Example: Pre-announcement Sales CD

4. Usage of Parenthesis

When parentheses enclose a complete sentence, the period belongs inside the parenthesis.

Example: MPEG-2 captures are full-frame. (MPEG-1 captures are quarter-frame.)

When an enclosed phrase comes at the end of an including parenthesis, or parentheses are used to enclose a sentence fragment, the period belongs on the outside of the parenthesis.

Example: Disregard redundant data (such as extra charts or graphs).

II. Structuring of Sentences

Rule 1: Maintain parallelism for all elements connected by coordinating conjunctions such as and, or and but.

Example: John creates, writes and modifies programs.

Rule 2: Maintain parallelism between elements being compared or contrasted.

Example: Participating in an activity is better than watching one.

Rule 3: Maintain parallelism for elements in lists and bulleted lists.

Example: Some of the factors causing stress are:

  • Working extended hours
  • Travelling across countries

Rule 4: Avoid intensifiers when they do not intensify. For example, you can avoid words such as really, very, quite, extremely and severely when they are not required.

Redundancy Concise writing
12 noon Noon
Refer back Refer
Repeat again Repeat
Summarize briefly Summarize
Exactly the same The same

III. Style

1. Font: Different organizations have different font preferences. The right font size and color needs to be used to ensure clarity.

Example: Avoid fonts such as the one shown below.

Richard

Instead, use fonts that are visible clearly, such as Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, etc.

2. Headers: Headers should be clear and concise, both for effective writing, and for fewer issues with translations. When a heading includes a hyphenated phrase, always capitalize the first element but capitalize the second element only when it’s not an article or preposition.

E.g. All-in-One, Road-Ready, Eco-Savvy, Roll-Cage Technology

4. Hyperlinks/ URLs: If the URL is valid, the text should be in blue and underlined. Ensure that the Web site address is provided in lowercase.

E.g. https://applicationurl.com

IV. Other guidelines:

1. Guidelines for writing summary

Every course should have a summary at the end of each module or after the assessment.

Rule 1: Do not use the content from the objectives page.

Rule 2: Explain the key learning points of the content.

Rule 3: Present your summary in a bulleted list with a lead-in sentence.

2. Guidelines for using Graphics

Photographs/ Images:

Rule 1: Follow the image copyrights. Assume that all materials/ graphics on the Internet are copyrighted.

Rule 2: Photographs from the clip art can be used in courses.

Rule 3: Image should be JPEG or PNG for quality and file sizing.

Rule 4: Image size should not exceed 220X280 pixels.

3. Guidelines for using Audio

Rule 1: Recommended import format for audio is MP3 or WAV.

Rule 2: Do not use multiple voiceovers in a course unless you are using a character-based approach with more than two characters.

4. Guidelines for Assessments

Assessments:

Rule 1: Write at least one question for each enabling objective/ learning unit.

Rule 2: Ensure that the questions match the exact level of the enabling objective in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Rule 3: Immediate feedback is provided to the users. The feedback will just tell the users whether their selection was correct or not.

Rule 4: The question stem should not be negative.

These are some of the components of a typical style guide that includes a set of standards that define how eLearning course developers should handle certain writing, grammar, and formatting issues in an eLearning course.

Thus, we see that a style guide goes a long way in helping create highly consistent, error-free digital courses. Hope you find this article useful. Do share your views.

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