Here in the Professional Education division of Blackboard we spend a lot of time developing effective solutions to help trainers engage learners. Every once in a while we come across something that’s extremely effective and should be standard practice for all trainers, but that is often overlooked. Janet Clarey brought this one to our attention: Basic editing.
As Janet says, we’re not talking about spell-checking. We’re talking about real editing; to “prepare [content] for publication or presentation by correcting, revising, or adapting.” In today’s world of instant information, we’re often so focused on compiling all the necessary content and making it available as quickly as possible that it’s easy to discount the need to edit. Data is beginning to show, however, that such an approach can have a negative effect on the bottom line. In a post at Writing for Digital, the companion blog for his book Audience, Relevance, and Search, James Mathewson, Editor in Chief at IBM.com, laments the fact that companies have adopted the belief that editors are superfluous; something they can eliminate to improve their bottom line. Fortunately for us he has the data to show why those companies may be doing more harm than good. Matthewson and his colleagues took sample content from unedited IBM marketing pages and gave it to one of their top editors for revision. Then they ran a month-long A/B test in which half of the visitors to those pages saw the unedited content and the other half saw the edited version. The results? The edited pages “got a 30 percent improvement on the desired call to action…across the board.” Those are improvement numbers any of us would love to see. So what does this mean for trainers? It means there is value in having editors involved in your training process, and you should involve them every time you are releasing written content. If there are no dedicated writers or editors in your company, find the person with the best writing skills and have them review your content before it is posted, presented, or distributed.
Try to find someone who isn’t completely familiar with the topics you discuss; fresh eyes will have an easier time spotting confusing or vague language than reviewers who “know what you meant.” If a simple step like having your work edited can improve learner engagement by even just ten percent, isn’t it worth it – for both you and the people you train?