What is a technical writer?

As well as being asked “what is a copywriter?“, I am occasionally asked “what is a technical writer?”.

Wikipedia provides the following succinct definition:

Opening a can of works to answer the question - 'what is a technical writer?'

Technical writer – technical copywriter. You say ‘toe-may-to’ and I say ‘toe-mah-toe’

A technical writer is a professional writer who engages in technical writing and produces technical documentation for technical, business, and consumer audiences.”

Someone who writes about technical topics in other words.

The difference between technical writing and technical copywriting

The main difference between technical writing and technical copywriting is the goal of the document being produced. Technical writing is usually about documenting complex systems or providing instructions on their use. Think manuals and tutorials for instance.

Technical copywriting on the other hand, is about selling complex systems.

Condensed further, the difference is simply “education vs sales”.

“What is a technical writer?” – a question we won’t be asking in future?

Despite these different goals however, inbound marketing has blurred the boundaries between both disciplines. Content marketing techniques provide consumers with information that is targeted to specific  issues they may be facing.

And because the aim of the piece is to inform, rather than to convert, a technical writer may actually be better placed to write it. Which is why many businesses are now encouraging all of their staff to supply content for use on the company blog.

This shift in tactics means that almost any item of written content can become a marketing tool. And it also means that technical writers may soon find themselves becoming technical copywriters, whether they mean to or not.


Image courtesy of FreeImages.co.uk

Written by Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd has worked in the IT industry since 1996, covering a number of roles from helpdesk support to network management and everything in between. Tech Write is built on this experience, offering outstanding technical copywriting services to agencies and clients across the world.

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