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.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.