Using plain language in self-help writing connects writers with their readers


Sometimes when I read self-help books, I have trouble with the language the writers have used to express their ideas.

I’m a writer who is firmly in the simple language camp, and I’m not impressed when writers use flowery language or three-dollar words (as my mother calls them) to sound as if they “know” more than they do, or more than the average person.

I have read many, many self-help books, and some of my favourite authors are Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Christiane Northrup, Elizabeth Lesser and Byron Katie for their amazing ideas and the plain way they have chosen to express them.

It is not easy to talk about the self, but I still believe that catch phrases and cute words separate readers from the true ideas the authors are trying to express.

Maybe the authors do this on purpose to seem distinctive, to stand out for their readers, or maybe they really talk the way they write, but I endeavour not to use jargon when I’m describing my experiences because I feel jargon separates me from other people.

I do come from a psychology background having a BA specialization in psychology, which is heavily scientifically based. And therefore I have read countless research papers on the life of the mind that did not use any cute, catchy phrases at all.

I know the DSM-5 likely has it’s own jargon, but that’s more so that psychologists and psychiatrists can speak to each other about the same conditions with the same words, not to sound hoity-toity. And that I understand.

I like very much how Eckhart Tolle explains clearly what he means by the words he uses, and he openly admits that it is difficult to discuss consciousness and being on paper, and even with words. It is a presence or a sense of being after all. Something we feel and experience, not chat about with our hairdressers, for example.

But still I felt this was a topic that I wanted to write about because a book I’m reading right now sometimes uses words that I feel put space between myself and their words.

I’m also writing this as a caution to myself because any writer can get caught up with jargon, and I remember one of my editors told me something very profound, “If you can’t explain clearly what a word means then you can’t use it in an article.” And this is so true.

I believe that for some writers words become a safety zone that they use to keep people away from their ideas, likely because they aren’t too secure with their ideas in the first place.

I’ve done this and likely all writers have done this, especially when they are writing about something they don’t feel they fully grasp or have an in-depth knowledge about.

So as I go on to express my inner experience, I will attempt to use as simple and clear language as I can. Because to understand myself is one thing, but to be able to clearly express my inner experience to others is something quite else.

And that is definitely my goal.

No one is alone in this journey we call life, and we all have our own inner worlds that we need to know and honour to fully grow in our lives.

I am sharing mine, and in doing so I hope it helps you with your journey.


I bow to you.


From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

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