These two career paths may seem quite similar on the surface, but technical writing and content writing are based on two very different concepts, even if their work processes overlap. If you’re interested in finding out more, or you’re wondering which path you should choose, read on to discover the difference between content writers and technical writers.
What’s the difference between a content writer and technical writer?
Put simply, a content writer is someone who creates content covering a range of topics. This can be anything from pages on websites to blogs, reviews, social media posts and even print media. A good content writer will always bear search engine optimisation and keywords in mind, with the aim of reaching a specific audience and attracting new readers to websites.
Technical writing, on the other hand, is quite different. It’s all about simplifying complex wording while ensuring the information provided remains authentic, scientific and relevant to the topic. Often, a strict format is followed and the tone is more professional. A technical writer will also have greater knowledge about a certain subject in order to create content for tutorials, user guides, manuals and product specifications.
Although excellent grammar, spelling and punctuation are vital for both professions, there are specific skills for each. For example, content writing needs to grab the reader’s attention and hold it, so being able to get the message across swiftly is important. A content writer will also need to work closely with the business they’re creating content for in order to understand their goals and tone of voice.
Alternatively, technical writing is about delivering complex information in a more precise way. Technical writers will often need to read through a vast amount of data in order to understand and restructure the information so a layman can understand it. Depending on the client’s end goals, this will require a lot of research, so research skills are a must.
Are there any common skills?
Yes, and good time management is one of them. Planning and time management are equally important for both roles, although a technical writer will usually follow a documentation plan while a content writer will work off a content plan.
Excellent communication is necessary for both occupations, as each role will require the writer to talk with their manager or client about specific task details. Writers may also need to attend meetings and reach out to subject-matter experts for advice and guidance. If they’re writing user manuals or tutorials, a technical writer might wish to attend QA and development meetings in order to communicate with developers.
A closer look at technical writing
Seeing as technical writing requires a broad knowledge of a certain field, technical writers will often have higher education in a specific area of writing. Writing texts of a technological nature is a big responsibility, and some writers may struggle to handle the pressure this entails. Usually, technical writers will be asked to create:
- Instruction manuals for the operation or maintenance of hardware and equipment
- Descriptions of production systems
- Articles and documents on legal topics
- User manuals for software and programs
- Product specifications for electronics and consumer equipment
- Documentation which accompanies equipment and software instructions
- Memos and FAQs
- Descriptions of the operating principles for devices and mechanisms
There are many sectors that require technical writing, including manufacturing, finance, energy, consulting, medical and engineering. However, in the digital age, technical writing isn’t limited to these areas. Being able to provide clear information or instructions for a certain audience is more important than ever before, so technical writers will also work in broadcasting, telecommunications, health, transport, publishing and much more.
Is there anything else to know?
An important factor to bear in mind when it comes to technical writing is the audience. This can vary dramatically; some technical writers will explain how products, programs or software work to the general public, whereas others are more embedded in the industry.
A great technical writer will be able to explain the context, the results and the ‘how-to’ steps of the product, program or software they’re writing about. This is similar to the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ of news-style writing but requires writers to better understand why and when to take a particular action.
A closer look at content writing
Unlike technical writing, the goal of content writing can vary based on what is being written. For example, social media posts need to be short yet intriguing, offering something new or unique which will encourage people to share them. On the other hand, reviews must be persuasive in order to convince the reader to buy a certain product, and landing pages must be clear and succinct, guiding readers to take a particular action.
It’s important to remember that content writing doesn’t require the writer to have a deep understanding of the subject they’re writing about. Most of what they need to know will be available on the internet, so writers can do plenty of research before they begin. Usually, content writers will be asked to create:
- Blog posts
- Product descriptions
- Web pages
- Press releases
- Social media posts
- Category pages
- Case studies
- How-to guides
- Marketing emails
Is there anything else to know?
Although content writers are often tasked with writing copy for a range of sectors and industries, they do have different specialities. For example, there’s brand, SEO and digital writers as well as lead generation, influencer and advertising writers. To find out more about the different types of content writer, check out this post by ClearVoice.
Get started today
If you’re looking to get into content writing, there are a number of different routes to consider, including Facebook groups and job boards. However, you should also consider signing up to an agency like Copify, where you’ll find a range of different content writing jobs to choose from.