by Jennie Ruby
One reader wrote that the reason you don't see much humor in training materials is that humor is hard to create, or create well, so that many writers don't even try. Another reader agreed, saying that it was about time "a few brave souls take the risk and thereby encourage others to catch the humor wave."
My comment that use of humor might make learners take your material less seriously was pooh-poohed by one reader, who said that use of jokes in a key-note speech, for example, "never has us leaving the auditorium feeling that we can't take the speaker seriously."
Another reader said it is probably fear of not being taken seriously that makes us steer away from attempting humor in the first place.
A reader recalled a specific cartoon from a For Dummies book that sticks in her memory and reminds her of an important point about the topic. That story proves the point of another reader, who stated that the use of humor is not a distraction as long as it helps cement a point that directly relates to the learning objective.
Several readers said that humor is best left for use in the live classroom, where the trainer can gauge the learners' reaction. I received stories about one trainer who had a roomful of people singing out loud, and another who cracked up a group with a fun "test" question that let learner's admit that the software they were learning could be a pain.
One reader commented that her team leaves the humor to the presenter or instructor, adding, "when the written materials are so dull, it's easier to be funny."
Whether learning materials should be dry like a dictionary or witty, friendly, and informal may depend a little on the topic and audience. But at least a few of my readers say it is time we worked a little harder to add some humor-or at least some wittiness-to our work.
My thanks to Dan, Joseph, Sara, a Sr. Instructional Designer in SoCal, Glenda, and Dollie for their thoughtful and fun comments on the topic.
Are you an eLearning developer who has been tasked with creating an effective voiceover script? I'm teaching a new online class in May called Writing Effective eLearning Voiceover Scripts. During the class I'll be teaching you how to define the appropriate voice and tone for a narrative text. You will learn how to take specific steps to create the engaging and personable writing style that voice-over narratives require. I hope you can join me. Click here to learn more. I also teach the Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts class. You can learn about that here.