Write the myTrailhead Way
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Explain the basics of voice and tone.
- Explain the content development process.
- Start writing, the myTrailhead way.
Part of what makes Trailhead unique is its voice and tone. Regardless of the subject matter, we take an informal, conversational approach when we write. We talk to learners about building app components with the same levity and verve we’d use to describe our latest scuba-dive excursion to friends.
You can (and should!) do the same thing in your myTrailhead content. Your goal as a writer is to make every topic feel friendly and approachable.
Establishing a strong voice and tone helps you connect to your audience; it makes everything you say feel relatable. You can pen the most crucial and compelling module on myTrailhead, but if you aren’t speaking the language of your audience, your content loses its influence.
The art of writing conversationally starts with scrubbing jargon and buzzwords from your content and replacing them with words you use in everyday conversations with friends or colleagues.
“We think people learn best when the content isn’t full of jargon, but sounds like it was written by an actual human,” says Chris Duarte, vice president of Trailhead Content.
So how do you establish a strong tone and voice? First, you have to understand the difference between the two.
Voice reflects your brand and personality. It's the things you say.
Tone is the way you speak. It's the way you say things.
At Salesforce, our voice and tone guidelines help us write in a concise, approachable way. Here are some things we tell our writers.
- Get to the point.
- Avoid complex sentence structures.
- Use as few words as possible to make your point.
- Don’t add text if it’s not needed.
- Avoid unnecessary or redundant information.
- Use language that you would with a colleague. Think business casual.
- Contractions are fine.
- Whenever possible, phrase sentences positively rather than negatively.
- Positive: Salesforce consolidates your data across disparate systems.
- Negative: Without Salesforce, your data is spread across disparate systems.
- The reader needs something from your writing—it could be skills training, product information, or even just a clear click-through to another webpage.
- Make sure your writing provides what the reader needs in a friendly, clear, and accessible way.
Remember how we said voice reflects your brand and personality? Your personality doesn’t change. What does change is your tone, the way you say things, depending on what you’re writing about and who you’re writing for. For example, we’ve learned that salespeople who travel a lot and are pressed for time prefer short videos and podcasts—things they can listen to on the go—rather than reading lots of text. Developers appreciate it when we just get to the point.
Once you’ve determined what audience you’re writing for, it won’t take much to shift gears and find the right tone to craft something that resonates.
Learning new things is fun, right? But you know what makes it even more fun (besides lots of confetti when you earn a badge)? A great story. Stories resonate with learners and make content more engaging and relatable. Research suggests that stories make learning "stick”—in fact, our brains are wired for storytelling. Narratives help us understand cause and effect and relate new knowledge to our previous experiences.
As you write, try thinking in story terms. What’s the situation? Who are the characters? What's at stake? What problem are the characters trying to solve? What choices do they make to come up with a solution?
If you really want your content to stick with your audience, then captivate them with a strong narrative, visual language, and relatable anecdotes.
You want your content to be fun, relatable, informative, and accessible to everyone. On Trailhead, we believe that content should be inclusive — we want all of our diverse readers to feel they’re reflected in the content and that it resonates. When you come to Trailhead, we want you to see yourself in the stories we tell. We want those stories to be positive and encouraging, and we want everyone to be seen in a positive light. We avoid violent or hateful language or imagery, and we steer clear of political content. We want our content to express respect for all identities, including culture, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disabilities, and age. We also work to ensure that our content is accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, we require that any video used on Trailhead has closed captions and images include alternative text descriptions for individuals who use screen readers.
This is how we do it: Writers outline their content goals. They draft something awesome and send it to their stakeholders for review. Stakeholders provide feedback, and writers revise. Rinse and repeat. This is what it looks like at Salesforce.
You’re ready to draft your outline. This is the time you lock down your target audience, decide what you want the content to accomplish, and determine what the learner should take away from your content.
Start by writing learning objectives at the beginning of each unit. The learning objectives are a list of actionable takeaways learners should be able to accomplish after reading the unit (Tip: start each learning objective with an imperative verb). For instance, if you’re writing a module about how to walk dogs, your learning objectives for the first unit might look something like this.
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Put a leash on an overly excited dog.
- Identify the best dog-walking routes.
Use those learning objectives to map to your topics in the unit. We recommend including images, videos, resource links, and other assets to help create a more engaging experience. Once you’ve outlined your units, with topics and detailed plans for images, then circulate the outline to your stakeholders, and incorporate their feedback to create the final plan.
When you’re ready to write your first draft, refer to your outline to help keep your points on track and your narrative focused. Go ahead and start writing your introduction—be conversational as you explain things, and be creative.
Quick copy self-check:
- Is your copy clear, focused, and positive? Have you verified any facts and claims?
- Would someone you love (a friend, spouse, or parent) who doesn’t work at your company understand what you wrote?
- When you read what you wrote, does it make you smile?
- When you read your copy, are you excited to learn—and do—more?
As you continue writing, just keep this in mind: myTrailhead is the fun way to learn.
Cue the confetti.