Most scientists spend their entire education learning to write in a specific style that’s easily recognizable and understandable for other scientists. When the opportunity arises to communicate your findings to non-scientists, that style may end up being confusing for many. Whether you’re starting a blog, communicating on social media, or writing a memo to inform public policy, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you more effectively communicate your message.
Know Your Audience
When talking to the public, you might be introducing the readers to a totally new concept, or you may be going more in-depth with something your readers have already heard of. Policy makers may be developing policy for an issue they’ve spent some time with, or they may be coming to you as the expert on a completely unknown topic. Learn as much as you can about your audience before writing. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of assuming less knowledge.
Lead with Your Conclusions
Usually, communicating your research in the scholarly community involves inserting yourself into an existing conversation, providing relevant background, building up to your main results, and discussing them. This approach will lose the interest of most non-scientists. Instead, lead with your conclusions, explain why they’re important, then show how you came to them.
Jargon is a word or phrase that will only be known by members of your group. Using jargon will, at best, confuse non-scientists and likely dissuade them from paying attention to your message. Jargon can be different things to different people, so it’s often useful to ask someone close to your expected audience if your writing is understandable.
Use Figurative Language to Explain Complicated Topics
Using metaphors or similes can help your audience make connections between new ideas and concepts they’re familiar with. Keep in mind that you may have to be okay with not being totally accurate in order to effectively make your point.