Six quick tips for writing for a general audience

Writing for a general audience, or editing your article to be for a general audience, is a simple process. As a biology major, I have found it to be crucial to learn the process of editing my paper into one that can be viewed for the general public. As for writing for the Made in Millersville Journal, every article published should be readable by people across different disciplines. Thus, below are some of my most useful tips I have found through the years for writing for a general audience!


1. Limit the use of jargon- Make sure to limit the use of jargon, the use of complicated terminology specifically geared towards certain majors or professions. Sometimes, the use of jargon may turn readers away because it is difficult for them to understand, or they think the paper is not meant for them to read. If it is used, make sure it is necessary and explained thoroughly where it is needed.


2. Keep in mind what the audience knows- Keep in mind the fact that there may be readers who know little to nothing about your topic. This closely relates to the previous point, but make sure to explain certain things well where it is needed; For example, yes every biologist knows every step of photosynthesis, but not every reader does! So, if there is a topic that is somewhat complicated, try to either explain it thoroughly or consider removing it.


3. Keep it concise- Try your best to keep your paper short and concise. As my professors would like to say, “take out the fluff”, meaning if you can free your paper of filler content and consolidate your paper, do it. You may start to lose those general readers if your paper is too long, so try to keep in mind the less the better while writing, and focus on the main points.


4. Begin each paragraph with the main point- Beginning each paragraph with main points can help guide the reader and help them mentally organize all the new information they are reading and taking in. This also will help ensure there will be less confusion. Additionally, make sure to have one main focus for the entire paper and make sure that each paragraph ties back to the main focus.


5. Narratives may help- Talking in first person can help the reader connect to the article. In addition, the use of a story can help bring the ideas mentioned to life. Both of these ideas can help create a mental picture of the process for the reader, further helping them understand the topic of the paper and what is being presented to them. Although you can write in third person, it is more common to write in first person when attempting to create a story through your article.


6. Use additional content when necessary- Only use pictures, tables, or graphs when it supplements your content directly, or it is useful in helping present your information effectively. Visual and graphics do aid the reader in understanding complicated material. However, be sure to add such if it helps the content be more understandable; too many may confuse the reader, and possibly turn them away if they feel confused or intimidated by the content. Thus, try not to overwhelm your readers with too many tables or graphs. Try to ask yourself this when you contemplate if adding a visual is useful when writing for a general audience: Does it relate to my content directly? Does it help supplement the findings? Could this be presented in an easier way?


All in all, writing or editing your paper to be available for any audience is so simple, and these steps are a great guide to do so. I even followed each step while writing this blog: I made sure I limited the usage of words that only a certain amount of readers would understand given their profession or major, I explained thoughts thoroughly enough because it is important to keep in mind that not every reader is going to understand each topic I present in the depth that I understand, I made sure to keep each point concise while providing only the key information needed, I began each paragraph with the main point to ensure that the reader wouldn’t feel lost and would have a sense of organization following along with my paper, I talked in first person to create a story with each thought, and I only used visuals where they are needed to supplement my article.


So with this, do you feel as though you have a better understanding of why writing for a general audience is key? Do you feel more comfortable writing or editing your paper to be available for any audience?