Specialist terms

This resource is an archived version of the Readability Guidelines.

New wiki is at: readabilityguidelines.myxwiki.org
Go to the Specialist terms page.


Recommendations

Specialist content does not need to be complicated and incomprehensible to non-specialists. Assuming who your audience is, and that they will understand the technical terms you use are both common misconceptions.

1. Remember that anybody can access your content.

2. Create content inclusively so that all users can understand it whatever their level of expertise or background:

  • do not just present a concept: explain its parts and processes in detail
  • if it's necessary to include technical terms consider explaining them and make sure the language surrounding them is in plain language

3. Help users understand a specialist term:

  • link the word to a page that explains what it means
  • add a definition after using the term
  • link to an existing definition – this could be an external site

Example

Before:
"It is a Palladian style stone building, and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving."

After:
"It is a Palladian style stone building, and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving." – with link.

"It is a Palladian style stone building and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving. Palladian architecture features columns, symmetry and decorative arches." – with definition.

We generated the before sentence about an architecture term from yourdictionary.com and applied our recommendations.

Usability evidence

'Writing Digital Copy for Domain Experts', Nielson Norman Group, 2017

'Writing Digital Copy for Specialists vs. General Audiences', Nielson Norman Group, undated

'Plain Language For Everyone, Even Experts' Nielson Norman Group, undated

'TechWhirl Fast 5: Understanding Plain Language and Simplified Technical English', Connie Giordano, TechWhirl, 2017

'Advantages and disadvantages with Simplified Technical English', Msc thesis paper, Karin Disborg, 2007

'Technical Writing Need Not Be Abstruse—Use Plain Language for Maximum Impact', Colleen Blessing, 2015

'The Facets of the General Public as Audience' Cheryl Stephens and Mariah Stufflebeam, 2017

Related wiki pages

Plain English
Sentence length
Sentence structure
Words to avoid

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