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The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Writing for Laypersons

A layperson is one who does not possess the technical knowledge of an expert or a technician. Thus, all of us read some documents as laypersons; no one is an expert in all fields.

Levels of Knowledge

Do not assume a layperson has a technical background. Unless you know that all members of your audience will understand a technical term or concept, explain it carefully, using examples and analogies with which the reader is familiar.

Some lay audiences can be classified as novices, persons who do not yet possess technical expertise in a field but are in the process of acquiring it. Technical textbooks at different levels, for example, are written to audiences that are starting out as laypersons but may become experts.

Purposes in Using Document

Laypersons read technical and scientific documents for a variety of purposes:

to expand their general knowledge

to help make decisions as citizens, consumers, and investors

to learn how to use a device or perform a procedure

to become an expert

Strategies for Writing to Laypersons

See Document Density.

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