How can I describe the difficulty of somebody who is trying to explain something to people who are not in his/her professional field, and is afraid of using professional terms that will be unclear to his/her listeners?

In my native language, I would say "it is hard to go out of the professional circle". How can I say it in English?

An example:

I have tried my best to explain this subject as clearly as possible, but it is hard to______

I do not think my question is a duplicate because I looked for a term expressing a difficulty of explaining. I didn't get a direct answer, so I deduced there is no such a term.

  • 2
    ELI5 is a web community jargon acronym for this: Explain Like I'm 5. However, this definitely is condescending unless applied by someone to her/himself! Don't use it to refer to others, only to yourself. Also, since it is jargon, it is highly likely that the very people whom you are explaining your complex system to, also are not familiar with this jargon. Jul 30, 2017 at 20:50
  • It is hard to explain in words of one sylable.
    – AdrianHHH
    Jul 31, 2017 at 10:16
  • @AdrianHHH It's not so hard as long as you have a good ... umm... book of words that say a word in not that word
    – A C
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:15

4 Answers 4


... hard to explain in layman's terms:

simple language that anyone can understand


  • 1
    I think it is more or less what I'm looking for. Just to make sure: doesn't it sound a bit arrogant?
    – Flot2011
    Jul 30, 2017 at 13:04
  • 8
    @Flot2011 not in the slightest if one is genuinely trying to be helpful. If it's said with a sneer, then anything can sound patronising or rude.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 30, 2017 at 14:44
  • 2
    I agree. Arrogance could be achieved with something like "it's hard to explain in words of one syllable".
    – sxpmaths
    Jul 30, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    It does not sound arrogant to me. Jul 30, 2017 at 15:12
  • 2
    @Flot2011, It could be taken as being arrogant if the person to whom you are saying it believes themselves not to be a layman in whatever area of expertise you are talking about. So, for certain types of personalities, yes, it could be taken that way. However, for those types of personalities, it's difficult to say something like this without them being offended. In my experience, the best way is to say it in a way that implies they already know the information, which allows them to save face by just agreeing with you and/or pretending that yes, they did already know that.
    – Makyen
    Jul 30, 2017 at 18:35

Plain English

I have tried my best to explain this subject as clearly as possible, but it is hard to express in plain English.

I would fully support the answer from @sxpmaths, "Layman's terms" is an excellent phrase to describe just this.

I have, however, spent almost twenty years doing what you describe in your question, trying to explain technical information to laypersons, and some of them take offence at the term. It's not any fault of the terminology, someone who doesn't know what "layman" means may consider it condescending (I've never used it in that manner). I've had to beg the forgiveness of people to save contracts because they thought I was using some insulting computer jargon (it's actually an ecclesiastical term, referring to someone who is unordained preaching a sermon).

Because of this, unless I know my audience, I do make sure to use nothing but very plain English. Not "talking to small children English", just plain English. And I have found it is best to refer to it in such terms.

  • 1
    A related term for jargon-free language is "everyday English"; I consider that to be interchangeable with this answer, but may five more options for OP. Jul 31, 2017 at 14:45

Speak in plain language:

language that is clear and easy to understand, with no ambiguity or unnecessarily difficult words.

  • Use plain language instead of jargon. A booklet summarizing the scheme in plain language

(Collins Dictionary)


This may have an unintended condescending tone if used with your peers or it may be intended as a pejurative, but normally it would be acceptable to come down to another's level if there are chances that they won't understand you if you speak the way you'd normally do.

I have tried my best to explain this subject as clearly as possible, but it is hard to come down to the level of non professionals.

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