Writing for a Lay Audience

Writing abstracts for the public


Medical writers synthesize complex information in a clear and logical way that is appropriate for a target audience, from individual patients to physician groups to pharmaceutical companies. With a lay audience in mind, prepare a summary that utilizes the techniques of good writing: grammar, punctuation, tone, and voice.

The Exercise

For this exercise, you are a medical writer in a company that provides summaries of developments in clinical trials research and medicine. Your group has been hired to provide content for the American Lung Association’s (ALA) website.

Task: Prepare a summary of this research paper for a patient-oriented clinical trials summary.

A summary provides an understanding of the study and a brief description of the study’s outcomes. Identify what is important to readers of the ALA website. How will this summary fit with other summaries of clinical data on the webpage? Does yours provide enough information? Is the information easy to understand for someone without a medical background? Are the study’s outcomes framed to answer potential questions that readers might have about the study or about joining similar studies?

The Deliverable


The 150-200 word summary should be brief and clear. It should allow a lay reader browsing the website to understand:

  • Details of the study
  • Patient outcomes
  • Publishing and funding information
Sample Deliverable



General resources to get you started:


Skills used to perform this task:

  • Explaining complex ideas simply
  • Analytical thinking
  • Writing about unfamiliar topics

Skills used in the medical writing field:

  • Synthesizing new information quickly
  • Writing about unfamiliar topics
  • Oral and written communication with diverse stakeholders
  • Time management
  • Managing your clients and superiors
  • Project management

To view detailed lists of skills in job descriptions for communication careers, please see workforce data generated by Boston University’s BEST program.

Additional responsibilities

A professional in the medical writing field may also perform these activities:

You are viewing a job simulation. To get started, set up SMART Goals to perform this simulation in a reasonable timeline. If you have completed the task, fill out the Self-Reflection Sheet.

Simulation author: Linet Mera, PhD
Simulation vetted by professionals in the Bay Area