Writing for a lay audience is pretty much simple. These are users with very little or no prior knowledge of your subject, hence they depend on what you write to learn.It can be a little intimidating, knowing that they may use your information as the gospel truth, but on the flip side, they are less likely to criticize or dismiss your content – as they do not know better.
Therefore, compared to other audiences, the lay audience is considered to be the easiest to write for. You only need to appeal to the human interest aspect of articles which includes using more definitions, factual background information, and attractive visuals.
Nonetheless, just like any other audience, there are several things to avoid if you hope to keep your audience interested and engaged. They include:
- A Boring Intro
You can view the first few sentences of your content as the cover by which the lay audience will judge your piece. These need to be interesting enough to grip the attention of the reader and assure them that you will not waste their time.
For this audience, it is best, to begin with, a fun fact, short story, a quote from a famous person, or ask an intriguing question. These will keep them interested enough to wait for the gist of your content.
- Fluff and Clutter
Fluff includes any extra information or personal opinion which, if left out, the content will still deliver the intended information. The modern reader wants quick results and content that is straight to the point. Sentences that do not offer any real value are a turn-off which in turn leads to low bounce rates.
Clutter includes unnecessary phrases that could have been substituted with simpler words.
Both fluff and clutter tend to numb and tire the reader before they get to the main points.
- Technical Jargon
Plain English works best for a lay audience. Only use technical terms when you cannot find any simple words that convey the same meaning. If they are unavoidable, ensure to provide their meaning. Otherwise, the reader will be turned off and assume that your content is beyond their understanding – therefore not meant for them.
- Too Much Info
When writing, most writers are tempted to show off how much they know. Audiences such as experts appreciate this, since it helps them expand their knowledge about a particular subject as much as they can. However, lay audiences prefer that you keep it short and straight to the point. If they scan through your content and do not seamlessly find your main points, they are most likely to look for information elsewhere. To avoid this, sift all the points you intend to convey and only remain with those that the reader will find most useful.
- Fatiguing Structure
A fatiguing structure refers to long sentences (more than 20 words) and long paragraphs (more than 4 sentences). As mentioned earlier, this audience cares about how your content looks and feels. To tune it to their taste, mix up short and fairly long sentences and preferably incorporate 3 sentences or less per paragraph.
It is also advisable that each sentence carries its own idea, and each paragraph a separate theme. You should then introduce subheadings after a couple of paragraphs.
- Ambiguous Statements
Backing up your points with information from credible sources instills confidence in your readers that your content is reliable. You could provide links to such sources, just in case they may need to look them up to learn more or authenticate your information.
Do not assume that your readers are knowledgeable about any particular subject, hence avoid statements like, ‘As we all know…’ Instead, briefly and concisely furnish your readers with the particular information before getting into the main point. Remember the lay audience has little to no information about your content and probably any related topics.
- Passive Voice
In a passive sentence, the subject undergoes an action, whereas in an active sentence the subject performs an action. The latter is more preferable, as passive sentences tend to be unnecessarily wordier. Take for example the active sentence ‘Tom played soccer’ and the passive sentence ‘Soccer was played by Tom’. Though the two sentences convey the same meaning, the passive sentence is longer.
It is advisable that you only use passive sentences where they help deliver the message better.
- Seeming Distant
If you intend to keep your readers hooked, do not sound distant, mean or discriminatory in any way. The lay audience is most likely to receive your content better if it sounds friendly, respectable, and relatable. Therefore, using a pleasant tone and personal pronouns like ‘you’, ‘our’, ‘we’ and ‘your’ comes in handy. They help your readers feel like you are addressing them directly and tha your content is tailor-made for them.
- Dull and unclear Conclusions
Endings are a way to let your audience know that you have come to the end of your content without leaving them ‘hanging’. Though it comes after you have already delivered the main message, it is equally as important as the rest of your content.
The conclusion determines how the reader will apply your information. It should therefore be delightful, memorable and indicates clearly what you wish the reader to do with what they just learned. For example, if you were writing about particular services and you would like interested persons to reach out, you should clearly and concisely say so. Do not leave your readers with mixed feelings about what is expected of them.
Identifying your audience before creating content is essential. It enables you to identify the tone, style, and approach that will resonate well with your audience. When it comes to the lay audience, using a simple and easy to understand approach is of utmost importance. You should also focus on clarity, such that the reader is able to easily find your main points without necessarily having to read the whole content. Consequently, you will create content that attracts, engages, and converts.
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