Top ten tips for communicating to a non-academic audience

4 April 2022

Sharing your research with different audiences has great potential to drive impact. But, communicating academic ideas to non-academic audiences can sometimes be difficult and requires significant skill.

There is less necessity for the abstract and theoretical debates, and more demand for the tangible recommendation of what theory means in practice.

Here  we have put together our top 10 key points to help you translate your research in the most valuable way, for it to be well received and understood by a new and varied audience.

1. Be human

  • Be personal and inclusive. Talk about “we”, “us” and “you”
  • Vary your rhythm – mix long and short sentences
  • Paint pictures to help people visualise what you’re describing
  • Use active verbs (subject + verb + object).  The active voice is easier to understand and more engaging

2. Be considerate

  • Present your research in a clear, concise and simple way
  • Be kind to your readers and help them understand how they can use your findings to make a difference
  • Be mindful that your purpose is to open up academia and create a resource that everyone can use and understand

3. Keep your language simple and easy to understand

  • Write like you speak – use everyday words & phrases
  • Be conscious of your word choice. They should be simple, concise and understandable
  • Define complex concepts clearly

4. Keep it clear

  • Put the main point first and start with what matters most
  • Use subheadings and bullet points – it makes it structured and easier to skim 

5. Keep it as short as possible

  • Short sentences and paragraphs make content more digestible and easy to read
  • Select shorter words like ‘but’ over ‘however’
  • Choose five words over ten

6. Create a narrative

  • Whatever the subject matter, try to form a narrative-like structure that connects the facts, events and findings within your research
  • To avoid disrupting the flow of the piece, ensure no points stand alone
  • Create smooth transitions between paragraphs to make for easy reading – consider signposting
  • Does it read well? 

7. Preference benefits before processes

  • Focus on what’s most important for readers, not how you got there
  • Be explicit and say only what’s helpful and focus on the essentials

8. Avoid jargon and acronyms

  • Be concrete, not abstract
  • Write out complicated or unknown acronyms every time
  • Don’t assume knowledge as it could leave readers guessing

9.  Only claim what you can prove

  • Use evidence not adjectives
  • Specify don’t generalise
  • Use facts to convince readers
  • Remain cautious and stay realistic

10. Ask questions?

  • Draw readers in and make them think by asking smart questions
  • Questions can help others see limitations
  • Questions inspire innovation and new perspectives

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