Part of the trouble in writing blog content about complicated topics (such as the law) for the lay reader is that the audience you’re writing for will determine what you can say. This is no different than it is for any other type of writing, but because the topics you’re talking about often require an understanding that the average person doesn’t have, you have to change the way you write. This is a challenge, especially when you’re not used to doing it.
If you are talking to group of lawyers and say “de novo,” those lawyers will know what you’re talking about. They’ll know you’re talking about appellate advocacy and about standards of review. You and they will share the basic shared knowledge necessary for communication. You and your audience speak the same language.
But what about a lay reader? Chances are a lay audience who hears “de novo” won’t have any idea what’s going on. They’ll be lost as soon as you utter the term, and you don’t have much time to help them get back on track.
So, you have to back up. You have to explain what a standard of review is. You have to explain to a lay reader what an appeal is, what an appeals court does, and how it does it. You have to take yourself back to what you were like before you went to law school, or before you went to college. Even then, you might have to go back further still.
So how do get a point across to a lay reader? How do you present your knowledge in a way that the reader will understand? I’m glad I asked those rhetorical questions.
Finally, if you’re just getting started writing for lay readers, forget the idea that you’re going to write clean first drafts. Write what you want to say, then go back and edit it. It takes a lot of practice to get your point across when you’re used to talking to other professionals.
Remember, your readers are smart people, but they don’t have your knowledge and experience. To convince them, to help them, you first have to educate them, and do so in a way that suits their sensibilities.
You’re writing for them, not you. Keep them in mind at all times and you should get better.