Sunday, 24 August 2014

Writing in layman's terms – the benefits of keeping it simple

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." 
                                                                              ~ Albert Einstein

This quote from Einstein is one of my favourite principles for copywriting. I always make it my business to fully understand whatever it is I am writing about. After all, I can't expect my readers to understand it if I don't understand it myself.

To use layman's terms is a British expression meaning to communicate using language that the average person can understand. The average person is someone without any professional training or specific understanding of the subject area.

Overcomplicated copy can alienate potential customers

It doesn't matter how you try to reach new customers — by post, email, telephone or online — if you don't speak their language, they are not likely to make the effort to try to understand you.

You could be losing business

Last year I worked with a company that provides an amazing service — a service that can be used by practically any business. It didn't take me long to realise why they needed a copywriter.

The problem was that the company's copy had been written by one of the technical staff — someone with an excellent understanding of the mechanics but, seemingly, no idea of how to talk to the customer.

When I came to rewrite the existing copy, I had no clue what the company did or how its service could benefit the customer. It was only by Googling some terms and asking quite a lot of questions that I began to understand. 

Writing to benefit your customers

Firstly, think carefully about who your customers are and try not to assume anything. 

For example, just because you offer IT services that doesn't necessarily mean you will only be dealing with IT personnel. Almost all businesses use some form of IT these days, but not all businesses are large enough to have a designated IT department. 

When writing your copy, imagine that you are explaining your product or service to an elderly relative. How would you adapt it to accommodate their lack of experience and understanding? Try these tips:
  • Keep your language clear and simple;
  • Use short sentences and make good use of punctuation;
  • Don't assume what knowledge your customers may have — avoid using industry-speak or jargon;
  • Focus more on the benefits to the customer than the technical specifications; and
  • Pass the finished piece to an impartial third party with no knowledge of the subject matter — ask them if they understand it and if not, find out why not.

If you would like me to write your customer-friendly copy, or give you a FREE appraisal of your existing copy, please do not hesitate to contact me.


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