Tools ‘n Tips: Writing for a Lay Audience – Presented by Susan Elkins

Tuesday, January 10, 2023 @ 12:00pm (Eastern)

Researchers often have a difficult time with writing for a lay audience. This does not mean removing all of the science. It does mean simplifying or clearly defining those technical terms and ideas. It can also be helpful to think about making a connection between the scientific advancement you’re discussing and the potential benefits to the intended audience. Research development professionals can help faculty better address this task.

During the PD Committee’s January Tools ‘n Tips monthly webinar, Susan Elkins shared advice and resources for RD professionals looking to hone their skills when writing for a lay audience. 

Resource 1: Writing for a lay audience (Cancer Research UK) 

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it short
  • Make it inclusive
  • Back it up
  • Separate your ideas
  • Active voice
  • Avoid turning verbs into nouns
  • Use lists where appropriate
  • Be economical
  • Use analogies and images
  • Use Links

Resource 2: In a nut shell: how to write a lay summary (Christopher Tancock)

  • “So what” – justify your research
  • Contextual background – why are you doing this
  • Follow a logical order
  • Explain the impact
  • Sort sentences – write in plain English
  • Avoid jargon if possible
  • First person active voice
  • Use positive statements instead of negative ones
  • Include images if possible

Resource 3: 3 Questions to ask yourself when writing for lay audiences (AMWA Blog) 

  1. Who is my audience?
  1. What are their needs?
  1. How can I communicate most effectively?
  • Consider structure/content/design
  • Optimize readability
  • Tailor content for specific audience
  • Make it easy to navigate
  • Review your work through from your audience’s perspective

Accessing Previous TNT Recordings:

  • Log into your NORDP account (
  • Look for the “Quick Links” menu (blue) on the right-hand side of the screen
  • Select “NORDP LMS”
  • Make sure you are seeing “All Courses” – scroll down to the bottom of the page and select “SHOW ALL COURSES”
  • Search for “TnT”
  • Select the “TnT (Tools & Tips) Talks”

Do you have a great Tool or Tip you would be willing to share? If so, please contact Dawn McArthur or Emily Devereux. We would love to hear any requests and we’ll see if we can’t find a presenter!

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