I'm writing a journal paper and I want to find a suitable way to refer to someone who lacks formal training in a specialist field or specialist knowledge. The only example I can think of so far is "layperson". Checking this question it seems these suggestions are unsuitable for academic style. My specific usage example is as follows:

"For the operator, the extremes of suitable clinical training as opposed to '__________' will be considered."

However, I have had this problem before and would appreciate alternatives that may be a more general solution than for the specific usage above. Along with suitable academic style, another issue I'm specifically trying to avoid is being disrespectful towards the person/group I'm referring to.

  • Is it supposed to be a noun or an adjective?
    – vickyace
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 7:03
  • I believe a noun would be most suitable. Similar in the way "dilettante" might be used.
    – arkore
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 8:54
  • Why would you need specialist knowledge just to refer to someone? (/joking)
    – NVZ
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


Someone trained in another part of a broad field may be described as non-specialist, which can still imply quite a high level of training. This is used for scientific instruments pitched at a user who is interested in the results rather than the mechanism by which they are obtained.

Lay as an adjective opens up possibilities not covered by "layperson" . It can be used as "lay reader" or "lay user" for example, giving an idea of the role. This could even be considered more respectful as "layperson", which is too close a synonym for "amateur" in some contexts.

It's often best though to be as specific as possible. You might refer to a user with basic first aid training or an untrained user (if for example you're discussing a defibrillator).

  • 1
    I think in my specific case "non-specialist" will likely work the best. I did like vickyace's suggestion of rudiments but felt that it may give an impression of talking down about the group. Thanks!
    – arkore
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 9:11

Try rudiment (usually used in plural)

A basic principle or element or a fundamental skill

something unformed and undeveloped: beginning

Also, a definition from oxford dictionary

basic principles, basics, fundamentals, elements, essentials, first principles,

Beginnings, foundation, basic skills

"For the operator, the extremes of suitable clinical training as opposed to 'rudiments' will be considered."

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