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What Makes Writing Educational?

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Your goal is to help your readers learn and apply the information. (Photo: kasto)

Before you start any writing project, it’s important to think about what your goals are.

For example, the goal of a movie script may be to entertain, while the goal of an online ad may be to persuade the reader to buy the product.

If you’re writing educational materials, your goal is to help your readers learn and apply the information. But this is typically easier said than done.

You have to convey the information in such a way that readers understand the material and find it engaging; otherwise you’ll lose them before you’ve accomplished your goal.

Here are some key similarities among effective educational writing.

It’s Logical, Consistent, and Organized

Once we understand something well, we often forget that the topic started out as a confusing jumble.

Even the simplest of subjects usually consists of many different and connected concepts.

That’s why learning something new can be challenging. That’s true even when the learner has access to the best learning materials. If the materials are illogical and poorly structured, it just makes it more frustrating for your readers and wastes their time.

By focusing on writing in a way that’s logical, consistent, and organized, you can avoid this. Your readers will thank you.

One method for doing this is to separate the topic into small subtopics that are easier to digest. This makes it easier for you, the writer, to organize the way in which you present the information. It also usually makes it less daunting for your readers.

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Image of a quote that says, "Great educational writing tends to cover material that's slightly (not too far) beyond your readers' current knowledge level."

It’s Well Calibrated

Effective educational resources tend to cover material that’s slightly beyond readers’ knowledge level.

  • If they already know the material, they’ll find it boring.
  • But if it’s too advanced, they’ll find it intimidating and frustrating.

That’s a tricky balance.

One great example of this is learning a new language. Stephen Krashen is a professor of linguistics who has done a lot of research on this topic. He even developed something called The Input Hypothesis, which states that language learners progress when the material is slightly more advanced than their current level.

This is often called the “i + 1” method:

“Krashen says that students acquire language when they receive input that is slightly beyond their current level. He refers to this as i + 1 (input plus one). If students receive input that is below or at their current level (i + 0), there is nothing new to acquire. However, if the input is too much beyond their current level (i + 10, for example), it no longer is comprehensible.”

—González, Josué M. Encyclopedia of Bilingual Education. Thousand Oaks (Calif.): Sage, 2008. Print.

First, it’s important to know what level your learners are at currently, as well as what else you want to teach them. This might require some research and trial and error to get it right.

It Illustrates the Main Points

Repetition is key during the learning process.

That’s why it’s important to cover the key points multiple times and explain the same concepts in slightly different ways. This is what will make the material stick.

  • Learning materials that are effective also use examples, stories, analogies, pictures, charts, and similar devices that illustrate the main points.
  • Where possible, it’s also helpful to ask readers to apply what they’ve learned. For example, they can write a paper, take a quiz, do an experiment, or anything else that requires them to take an active role.

One benefit is that this forces them to think more deeply about the topic. Another benefit that’s often overlooked is that when people apply what they learn, it makes it easier for them to figure out the gaps in their knowledge and what’s missing.

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By incorporating these tips into your educational materials, you’ll make them much more accessible and effective.

At Super Copy Editors, we’ve worked on a wide range of projects for educators, curriculum designers, and corporate trainers. Get in touch with us to learn more about our copy editing and proofreading services.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.


  1. Karen Doll
    July 20, 2017

    Well said, Dave!

    I especially like your point about asking readers to apply what they’ve learned. Excellent suggestion. I enjoy interactive types of posts and do learn more that way. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Dave Baker
      July 20, 2017

      You’re very welcome, Karen.


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