Writing for flow and clarity

Learning Objectives

At the end of this learning unit, you will be able to:

  • Identify the elements that bring flow in instructional writing.
  • Correct flow problems in a given piece of content by using Thought Path and transition enhancing strategies.
  • Identify the elements that bring clarity in instructional writing.
  • Rewrite instructionally unclear content for clarity.

Now that we have looked at the technical writing guidelines, let us talk about some measures that we can take to maintain flow and clarity in our content to make it easily understandable for our learners.


Sure. I think that would be of great help for all authors to write meaningful and engaging content for our learners.

Instructional flow

The term Flow indicates two things:

  • A logical placement of ideas by using a defined method, such as in a chronological order.
  • A smooth transition (or clear relationships) between adjacent ideas.

Most of us write for flow without giving it much thought. However, at times, the message to be conveyed is complex and though we understand it, our ability to have our learners understand it too becomes limited. 

Since instructional design is concerned with instructing the learners efficiently and effectively, this limitation poses a serious problem. To address this, a Thought Path is very useful.

Thought Path

A Thought Path is a visual representation of the main ideas and the links between them. Drawing a Thought Path for a complex idea does three things:


  1. Gives you a birds-eye view of the topic coverage and design.
  2. Compels you to find the links between ideas (thereby increasing your comprehension of the content).
  3. Gives pointers to the places where the transition needs to be strong.

All these things help you present content in a manner that is faster and easier to understand for the learner.

To understand how to draw a Thought Path, we need to look deeper into how information bits are related. When we think of presenting information in any subject area, all information bits are related to each other in specific ways. Some information bits have a parent-child relationship in which one information bit is derived from another information bit. Some other information bits have a set-subset relationship with other information bits in which one idea has multiple subideas.

To draw a Thought Path, draw out all the information bits and the relationship between them. Then number the information bits in the most logical sequence applicable to the situation. Some examples of commonly used sequences are chronological (as in a process) and narrative (as in a series of features or parts). Whenever the gap between adjacent information bits increases (like between 2 and 3) plan to write a strong linking statement or transition.


The Thought Path gives pointers to the ideas that need special attention in transition between them. In addition, transition needs to be present even between adjacent ideas. There are several ways to build transition between ideas. These are:

  1. Transitional words
  2. Repeating keywords
  3. Pronouns
  4. Summary-Preview transitions
Using Transitional Words
Type of Words Words Example of Usage



As well as

In addition




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As soon as






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On the other hand


As opposed to

In contrast to





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On the other hand



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As a result



In order to



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For example

For instance

As an example

To illustrate

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In other words

In brief

Stated simply

To put it another way

In brief, you learned that an objective has three components: Performance, Condition and Criteria.





On top of

Next to


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Repeating keywords

Using keywords consistently and repeating these at the right place (usually at the beginning of the sentence) helps improve flow. It helps learners place the new information in the right context, created by the use of a previously taught keyword. 

Example: A Thought Path is a visual representation of the main ideas and the links between them. Drawing a Thought Path for a complex idea does two things: Compels you to find the links between ideas and gives pointers to where the transition needs to be strong. 


Pronouns can sometimes replace repeating keywords. They are useful when the subject is very clear and repeating keywords would be cumbersome.  

Example: After the Design phase is complete, the Develop phase of the ADDIE model begins. In this phase, the design is developed into instructional material.  

However, be careful while using pronouns because often learners wonder what the pronoun stands for.  

Summary-preview transitions

In this method, you summarize a part of the content before moving on to the next part. You can also add a small preview of what is going to come next. This is a powerful method to use between the end of the enabling instruction and the beginning of the main content. 

Example: You learned about the methods of improving transitions. Next, you will study the elements of clarity in instructional text.  

Instructional clarity

Flow is a logical positioning of ideas and building clear links between them. Having done that, there is still a need to convey the message effectively.  

In addition to following the technical writing guidelines and writing grammatically correct sentences, there are two more things that you can do to make your writing clear to the learner. These are: use unambiguous language and provide examples for every generalization.  

Unambiguous language

Unambiguous language means leaving no possibility of different interpretation of a statement by different learners. Why is it necessary?  

You are creating instructional material to instruct learners in a specific area. Your message has a specific purpose for a specific audience. Therefore, it is critical that what you have to say is understood uniformly and clearly by the audience. In a Web based training, the absence of an instructor makes it even more necessary that what you write is clear to all learners. 

Some examples of ambiguous language in instructional writing are given below:
Example Reason of Ambiguity

Writing style does more than just communicate the information. It communicates a whole lot of information about the author.

On its own, the statement can mean different things to different readers. Possible meanings are the age, nationality, gender, or outlook of the author.

If the audience is known to be experts in the area, what you write will be very different from what you will write for a beginner in the field.

Once again, this sentence leaves a lot to the readers judgement. It does not specify how the writing style will be different for different audiences.

A very powerful way to bring clarity to your instructional text is providing examples for every generalization. This usually is the solution to the problem of ambiguous language too.

A lot of authors try to avoid illustrating generalized statements with examples because they worry about overload of information. However, if it is worth mentioning as a generalization, it is worth exemplifying.

On the other hand, a prerequisite or entry level knowledge placed in instruction to build a context or to review the lesson need not be illustrated by examples.

Another reason why authors may not provide examples for every generalization is because they do not know the examples. If this is the case, ask your Subject Matter Expert to provide you with examples. Remember, if you do not know the content well, your learners will not either.  

Ambiguous Statement Adding Clarity by Using Example

Writing style does more than just communicate the information. It communicates a whole lot of information about the author.

Writing style does more than just communicate the information. It communicates a whole lot of information about the author, such as the author’s outlook towards people and life.

If the audience is known to be experts in the area, what you write will be very different from what you will write for a beginner in the field.

If the audience is known to be experts in the area, what you write will be very different from what you will write for a beginner in the field.

For example, to explain the process of creating a Shelf in ClickLearn Studio to an expert user, you will freely use terms like book, produce and publish. To a first-time user, you will first explain the terms using analogies and only then use the terms.


In this learning unit, you learned that:

  • Flow is defined as the logical placement of ideas and links between them.
  • The Thought Map technique makes visible the bird’s eye view of a topic, giving inputs on weak links.
  • Transition can be strengthened by four ways: Using transitional words, repeating keywords, using pronouns, and using summary-preview transitions.
  • In addition, to all the technical writing guidelines, clarity has two components: unambiguous language and examples for every generalization.

These were definitely some very useful ideas to write clear and concise content that flows perfectly as the learning progresses.

Yes, using these pointers will help you link the various processes in your documentation where one task leads to the next.

Coming up next is an interesting topic on adding visual elements to enhance the learning experience. Read on.