If you have a large circle of friends from different walks of life, you might have come across the word “layman”. While conversing, your friends may have requested that you to use layman’s terms in order to explain yourself.
These terms can be easily defined as expressing your thoughts verbally or in written form using simple vocabulary and easy-to-understand words. Thus, avoiding jargon and clunks that get in the way of understanding and might also hinder communication between people.
Not just in face-to-face interaction, but it is also crucial to be clear and precise when communicating through written words. Because in reality, you can explain yourself, but your written words, would be misunderstood. Clarity and Understanding are the King and Queen of communication.
So, language should be such that it can inculcate readers from other disciplines as well. The best thing about simplified language would be it can reach people with disabilities through American sign language, as instructors could easily comprehend it to them.
Who is a Layman? What Does Layman Terms Mean?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a layman as “a person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject”. On the other side, Merriam-Webster describes a layman as “a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not an expert in some field”.
The terms like layman, laywoman, and layperson are used for people who lack knowledge in any particular discipline. Such as if a medical research paper on mRNA technology and its findings is shared, a non-medical person wouldn’t be able to comprehend it.
Then what is squarely the “layman’s terms” meaning? According to Collins Dictionary, “to put something in layman’s terms is to describe a complex or technical statement using words and terms that someone not specialized in a specific field can understand.”
No one is so capable enough to have knowledge of every discipline, so in one way or another way, we all are laypersons. The simplified layman’s terms definition would be a language that could be understood by a common man, in which words are arranged in such a way that it is easy to read.
The arrangement of words would drop off technical jargon, difficult vocabulary, and slang. It aims to increase the readability of the content.
The Emergence of Layman’s Terms
The words “layman” and “layman terms” first came to light in the 16th century. These terms have an early association with Christianity. It was used to emphasize a Christian man who has a religious entity but lacks knowledge of different disciplines. And considered an unprofessional and common man by society.
Its origin could be traced back to Greek laikos. This idiom could be best explained as “Plain” words. The word “lay” meant non-clerical. These terms were used to differentiate between clergymen and non-clergy men.
Different Ways of Using the Layman’s Terms
There are many different ways in which you can describe the phrase “layman’s terms”. There are two ways in which you can use layman’s terms, i.e., through statements and through conversations.
Following are the words with the same meaning:-
- Simple English
- Plain English
- Simply Put
- Simple Terms
- Plain Terms
- Layperson Terms
- In Simple Terms
People who find the term a bit awkward could use these alternative terms.
Sentence Formation Examples Using Layman’s Terms.
In order to get familiar with the idiom, try to inculcate it in your vocabulary.
Try inculcating layman terms in your vocabulary, along with their synonyms. And let us know how vivid reactions you received from your peers.
Why You Should Use Layman’s Terms?
There could be many reasons for using layman’s terms, let’s just look at some of them.
- Some things are so intricate to comprehend that only a handful of people can make sense of them. Then they think that they are at the center, hold all the power, and may abuse it.
- Layman terms also test the level of understanding of the professional. Albert Einstein rightly said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.
- The grace of the universe resides in the simplicity of words.
- Words were developed to communicate, if there is a hindrance in communication, what’s the point of the formation of words? So, for communication between different individuals, it is vital to use layman’s terms.
- It enables the exchange of thoughts between different individuals.
- Layman terms are actually an art that needs to be polished and cherished. Explaining things in a complicated way I quite easier than expressing them in simple words.
Now, I feel that I have brushed off some of your preconceptions regarding these terms and established a clear picture of why you should employ laymen’s terms in your vocabulary.
Some Pointers Which Will Assist You to Speak and Write in Simple English
In order to be a successful writer, orator, and teacher, it is necessary to use simple yet catchy words and phrases that drive readers’ and listeners’ attention toward your work. Then, what do layman’s terms mean in writing? Let us just skim through some pointers to understand this.
Less Can Be More
It is best to produce your work in a simplified manner for a better understanding of the public. Try to match the pace of readers rather than the other way out. You cannot catch the attention of readers and listeners for long, so it is important to convey only precise information. Content should be short and interesting, which could engage people.
It is important to pause after the important ideas are conveyed. Try to give some space to readers and listeners to ponder over things and form their opinions. Whether you are writing or speaking, shorten your sentences and paragraphs, especially when making a presentation.
Some suggestions while making sentences:
- Avoid using passive voice and use active voice instead.
- Keep away from repetition, acronyms, modifiers, and verbosity. Instead, make use of metaphors.
- Make use of fragmented sentences rather than long ones.
Note: A paragraph should consist of more than 100 words, but less than 200 words.
Use Illustrations and Analogies
Making use of images and analogies is the best artistic tool that you can employ for making your content appealing. Visual representations are the first thing that catches the eye of readers.
Researchers have also said illustrations are one factor that influences the readers if they will continue to read or not. It is quite functional in the area of academic content when followed by explicit instructions.
Try to build a connection with readers through illustrations. It will result in imaginary pictures in their minds, and thus your message would be conveyed accurately.
Keep Jargon at Bay and Clearly Define Technical Terms
The jargon could be defined as words or phrases which are associated with specific disciplines and are used by experts and insiders of the specific field. These technical words serve as a hindrance to the general public.
The foremost thing is to avoid presumptions and instead explain. Don’t assume on behalf of readers that they already know what you are talking about.
Avoid using phrases, idioms, and acronyms that are too ornamented, which the reader and listeners might not be able to comprehend.
Discover a common language and deliver it crisply to the public.
What to avoid while writing and crafting speeches in laymen’s terms for the audience:
- Acronyms used by specialists. For Example: In the field of education, SLD stands for Specific Learning Disability. While CBFS stands for Choice Board For Students.
- Slang terms are used in specific disciplines. For Example: In the field of MBA the word “sacrosanct” is used for indicating scarcity of time, and it also means (especially of a principle, place, or routine) regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with.
- Discipline Specific Phrases or Idioms. For Example: In the field of Engineering, the phrase “Dog and pony show” is used for a flashy or overhyped performance or presentation.
- Technical language, for example: saying “URL” for the “web address”.
Note: Do not incorporate clunk words in writing and when delivering a speech.
Relate to Your Life
Try to create an emotional bond with the readers and listeners by incorporating your personal experiences. If you create a story, it should be relatable to the readers and listeners.
Test the readers and listeners by asking questions so as to know that they are able to get what you are trying to portray. And you will also know if they are engaging in your content or not.
Writers and Orators can also employ comic relief after the explosion of main ideas and thoughts. Try to connect the dots with real-life experiences.
Express Your Main Ideas In the Beginning
A reader and listener has a wide range of options to read and listen from. So, it is necessary to make an impact in the first paragraph of your blog or speech. Usually, all the readers decide by gliding through the first paragraph whether they will continue to read or not.
It is best to explain precisely in the first paragraph what the reader and listener will encounter in the later blog.
Note: The introduction of the blog shouldn’t exceed 100 words.
Don’t Make Your Content Shallow
In order to accommodate plain vocabulary, don’t omit necessary information. Maintain your quality while using simple words, otherwise, the content will appear shallow. If the content appears shallow layman’s terms, meaning will be lost.
You need to find a balance between your content and your audience. It is necessary to decide which audience are you referring to in the article and in the speech. Your target audience can help you determine how sophisticated your writing and words should be.
Note: Don’t overdo or underdo your creativity, strike a balance between both.
How Does Layman’s Terms Help Today?
There is a long-going tussle between academic and non-academic people about the usage of Layman terms that has reached a boiling point. Academic researchers have an opinion of the seclusion of these terms whereas non-academic people cater to its inclusion.
But in recent times a shift is seen in the approach of everyone and even the experts. Many writers and researchers have realized the importance of credibility and readability of their content which solely depends on the readers.
Readers are the king of the marketplace. They have realized that big words, unclear phrases, and difficult vocabulary won’t benefit either them or their readers it will just make readers feel aloof. The primary goal of communication is conveying information if there would be many technical or fancy words this motive will collapse.
I would like to give one simple example from my life itself. I have taught many students of B.A. (Hons.) English students what I noticed is that they could not get what they were taught in the class. Can you guess the reason why? Oh! No, they weren’t bunking the class.
The main reason was that the teachers were using ornamented language and so polished vocabulary that students were unable to make sense of it. When asked to explain it in laymen terms, they received strange reactions from the teacher.
I won’t deny that literature demands to some level fancy words, but while delivering a lecture or when you are making someone understand something for the first time simple vocabulary should be used. This necessitates the importance of laymen’s terms in every walk of life.
Let’s look into how layman terms help in several situations and fields:
- In academics, learners are more likely to engage in the learning process if plain terms are used in texts and in the teaching approach.
- It eases the process of communication between the sender and the receiver.
- For writers, these terms aid in the readability of the written material. Their content would be easily searchable and will help them gain a better SEO ranking. What you write should resonate with the words people are searching for.
- Layman terms help in a better understanding of the work and create an opportunity for the exchange of ideas between people.
- The layman terms can provide head-start education to children with language disorders. Because they are not able to understand the complexities of the words.
- It could be a perfect learning tool for imparting foundational knowledge among school-going children.
- In the medical field, it can bridge the gap between the patient and the doctor. And help in building healthy relationships.
No individual can deny the fact that layman terms are quite helpful and is implied by many researcher and scholars in the 21st century in order to reach the people.
Earlier they arraigned these terms and denied their existence in the walks of life, but now they themselves use them in order to communicate. Moreover, studies have shown that these terms make researchers and professionals look smarter, as many people could comprehend them and apply their teachings.
Are Layman’s Terms Derogatory to Use?
Did you go through the layman’s terms definition mentioned above in the article? What are your opinions did you find it objectionable? Oh! I heard a unison of no.
Earlier in the past, it was largely used in a derogatory sense. But with the rise of the Renaissance and Reformation, there was a shift in the outlook of people. This evolution of thinking revamped what does layman’s terms mean for people.
Now this term is not an indicator of a lack of knowledge, scarce intelligence, and uneducated people. Still, it wouldn’t be right to say it fits in all situations.
There are situations where it still remains a misfit. Some situations are highlighted below where it is uncomfortable to use laymen’s terms.
- In a gender-exclusive sphere, it would be inappropriate to use layman terms, instead it should be referred to as layperson or lay audience. So, that no sentiments are hurt.
- In official conferences and spheres, use of this term should be avoided.
- When you are talking to an expert from the same discipline, layman’s terms should be avoided, and you should emphasize technical terms while expressing your thought.
- Your sophistication of writing will depend on the audience you are dealing with. A more refined audience and the intellectual audience may not require simple terms. On the other hand, a less intellectual audience will require you to use plain words.
Note: A writer and an orator should keep in mind the comfort of their readers and shouldn’t cause discomfort with any action of his.
It all depends on the perception of people, there are no bad or good words it depends on the context you use them.
Also Read: What are Dead Languages and 10+ Reasons Why You Should Learn One
Role of Layman Terms in Avoiding Jargon
The jargon could be defined as words, terminologies, and idioms used by specific professionals, activities, or fields of study. Many people regard it as unnecessary use of tough vocabulary in order to showcase professionalism and impress people than conveying important information.
The main aim of layman terms is to move away from unwanted jargon which might create a gap between the sender and the receiver. Here, I am not denying the importance of using technical terms but use them where it is extremely necessary and make them precise and clear to the audience.
Nobody ever objected that a text was too simple to comprehend. Jargon is frequently criticized by readers because it makes it difficult for them to understand what is being said. A communicator cannot have prenotions that their readers already know the terms they are talking about.
So, try to substitute all technical jargon with layman terms but keep in mind the kind of setup you are addressing. Obviously, you won’t use laymen’s terms in a formal setting where you are talking with your field members.
Some pointers that highlight the role layman term’s are playing in avoiding jargon:
- These terms simplify the technical words into easy-to-read language, thus, avoiding jargon.
- It is an old-school concept where laymen’s terms were considered useless, but now it lets the professional connect with people of other walks of life.
- Laymen terms have helped eradicate the rusty smell of legal writing by avoiding annoying jargon like ambiguous “shall”, “therewith” and “heretofore”.
- The Plain terms have also helped in reducing insignificant usage of phrases and idioms in the business world. For Eg: touching base, thinking out of the box, and strategically engaging departments.
- In the medical field, laymen terms bridged the gap between patients and doctors. Medical literacy is quite low in most countries. People find it difficult to decode these terminologies that why they neglect to visit a doctor. For, Eg: Using the term cancer specialist or doctor would be easier to understand than “radiology doctor” written on a sign board.
This is how layman’s terms help in avoiding technical jargon. To understand the role of layman’s terms in easing out technical jargon, some examples could be taken into account.
|Jargon / Don’t Utter ||Layman Terms / Utter |
|Coming of age||Adulting|
|Bildungsroman||Psychological growth of a person|
|Smoking cessation||Stop smoking|
What needs to be noted here, is that the plainer version or layman terms define and convey the meaning as accurately as a technical word. To be precise, it delivers the word and its meaning in a more clear and defined way.
Also Read: KSU D2L: Gateway to Online Learning at Kennesaw State University
To conclude, if the article has successfully reached its destination, readers will have a strong grasp of what does layman’s terms mean. If you are pertinent to your audience, you will easily breeze through. Things like deciding the tone and choice of words drift in your mind easily.
What is to be kept in mind while employing layman’s terms in academic writing is to incorporate text features as well to increase its readability for students.