Four tips for writing accessible nonfiction books
Among the greatest challenges for experts who pen nonfiction books about their profession is to make their writing accessible to the everyday reader. While there is a place for writing aimed at academia and colleagues, generally experts seeking to self-publish do so to increase or to support their business – e.g. a psychologist might write about anorexia, a family law attorney about divorce and child custody, a carpenter about home repair.
Such authors should aim to keep their writing simple. They should begin their outline and every writing session by always assuming that the reader knows virtually nothing about the topic.
To keep nonfiction simple, follow four basic guidelines:
• Avoid jargon and technical language – Such wording generally is confusing to anyone who hasn’t studied or worked in the profession. The author may use terminology from his profession, but he always must first define it in layman’s terms.
• Explain everything – Never presume that some topic is obvious. For example, if writing about child custody issues, readers probably has only a limited idea of how court proceedings are conducted, and what little they know probably is for criminal cases (The process differs in family court.) and greatly influenced by what was seen on television or in movies. If a reader does know what the was explained, he easily can skim through that sentence or paragraph.
• Give concrete examples rather than be abstract – Readers can better understand concepts when the author gives specific examples. Imagine if the previous point were simply written as “Never presume that some topic is obvious. If a reader does know what you’ve explained, he easily can skim through that sentence or paragraph.” A specific example helps the reader better understand what the author means.
• Go step by step and maintain the chronology – If explaining a process or how something has evolved, never skip around time-wise. Explain step 1 just as if you were doing it, then go on to step 2 and so on. For a reader unfamiliar with the process, shifting around in the timeline unnecessarily complicates the steps.
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Is it possible to write some respectful humour into the book? This would allow a rather dusty subject to be effective while also being palatable for the reader. Would it be regarded as too banal?
Obviously, not all topics would be eligible for this treatment. Great examples are the preferred method for these subjects.
Posted by: Althaea_flicek | 10/03/2018 at 06:27 PM