Writing for a Lay Audience

Many disciplines require complex language. Terminology,methods, previous work, and other related items often allow disciplinary language to be a private language.

Many disciplines, however, work directly with non-members of the discipline: other disciplines, general population, lawmakers, etc.  One type of assignment often found in WI courses is the “Writing for a Lay Audience” assignment. Sometimes this assignment, as described below, can be combined with a revision exercise.

  • Students do an experiment, research project, group project for the course.
  • The first assignment requires an explanation of the project in the disciplinary language the students are learning.
  • The second assignment asks students to rewrite the assignment for a lay audience. Terms will have to be rewritten. Organization will have to be reconsidered. Explanation of analysis will have to be translated for those unfamiliar with disciplinary jargon. The media chosen to deliver the writing may have to be rethought as well (Is a website more appropriate than a research paper? Is a public service announcement or video more appropriate?).