What is the difference between technical writing and business writing?

There are specific differences between technical and business writing and it is important to understand what these are to be a successful writer for both.
While it may seem like it’s all just about writing, there are some major differences that set both technical and business writing apart. Writing is a common and important skill required throughout your life and career, whether it's for a lab report or an important business presentation. In this article, we will share with you the similarities and differences between both styles of writing.
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You will frequently come across requirements for both technical writers and business writers in job advertisements and report requests. You are probably left wondering, "Aren't they the same?" 

Yes and no is the short answer. While there are similarities and overlaps between the two techniques, they are not interchangeable. Both have their own personalities, advantages, and roles to perform.

How can you tell if you've picked the proper style? This article will explain how the two styles align and diverge, as well as provide a helpful question to use when double-checking your content.

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What is the difference between technical writing and business writing?

Any career demands the ability to write. However, two of the most common writing types that get mixed up are business and technical writing.

It happens because they both have the same fundamental purpose in mind: to communicate difficult ideas in a way that is understandable to the general public. 

But what is technical and business writing? After all, specific word selections, precise language, and a formal voice are used in both styles.

But there is a difference as well, primarily focused on the fact that the target audience for both materials is very different. 

Let’s start by understanding what both styles try to focus on. That way, we'll be able to see the contrasts between them more clearly. Let's take a look at business writing first.

Be sure to check out: Is Technical Writing Hard in College?

What is Business Writing?

Business writing is a type of writing that is used by businesses to interact with both internal and external audiences. Emails, reports, business letters, and bids are all examples of business writing.

Although business writing and technical writing are similar, there are a few important differences. 

For starters, business writers aren't typically concerned with teaching others how to do things; they don't produce manuals or instructions.

Business writers, on the other hand, concentrate on writing for professional audiences. Typically, this type of writing entails producing useful writing that communicates important information to a reader in a brief, clear, and effective manner.

Proposals, whitepapers, reports, business cards, office memos, and emails are just a few examples of business writing. As you can see, it may appear to be conventional copywriting, but it is more focused on business applications. 

Business writers must be brief and employ proper grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary in a professional manner when writing. The final result should be simple to grasp for readers while also being appropriate for a professional business environment.

Instructional, informational, persuasive, and transactional writing are the four main types of business writing. 

1. Instructional business writing

The objective of instructional business writing is to assist the reader through numerous steps to complete a task. This is the type of writing that most closely resembles technical writing, and it can contain items like user manuals or memos.

2. Informational business writing

The goal of informational business writing is to maintain track of company data in a consistent and accurate manner. It frequently comprises documents that are critical to a company's growth, strategies, and legal concerns. 

A company's financial report, minutes of meetings, and report writing are examples of this type of writing.

3. Persuasive business writing

Persuasive business writing seeks to impact a reader's opinion by presenting crucial facts that will lead them to take a specific action. The goal could be to persuade someone to buy a particular product or believe that the firm provides the best value. 

This type of writing is usually associated with sales or marketing. Proposals, press announcements, sales emails, and other materials are all good examples of persuasive writing. 

4. Transactional business writing

Finally, the last type of business writing is transactional. This type of writing is usually used in the workplace for day-to-day communication and takes up most of your time if you are in an office environment. 

Emails, official office letters, bills, and forms are all examples of this type of writing.

If you are interested in learning more about Business communication here is a course you can do.

A business meeting
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What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing's key goal is to simplify difficult information and present a message in a clear and effective manner. User manuals, user guides, release notes, and other sorts of technical writing documents are some examples of technical writing.

Technical writing is a type of writing in which the author is required to explain a certain subject, usually one that is technical or complex. Typically, these subjects necessitate a significant amount of explanation, education, or guidance. 

Because of the complexity of its content, technical writing is pretty distinct from other forms of writing. It also serves a purpose that is distinct from creative, intellectual, or business writing.

Technical writers usually develop content that is simple to read, whether it be particular instructions, a manual, a report, or something else entirely. Technical writing is a technique of communicating about or explaining something and how it works in a clear and effective manner.

Technical writing is divided into two types: tangible and abstract. 

1. Tangible technical writing

Tangible writing is used to describe anything that can be touched or seen, such as the user manual that came with your smartphone or the how-to-assemble instructions that came with your modular furniture.

2. Abstract technical writing

Abstract writing is more concerned with describing things that aren't physical, such as legal policies, office regulations, or procedures. 

Because of their nature, they are extremely complex subjects and the fact that they are abstract makes them even more challenging to communicate. 

Science, engineering, and technology are the typical subjects that employ technical writing. Instruction manuals, policy manuals, user manuals, datasheets, research papers, field reports, analytical reports, product assembly instructions, and other related papers are examples of technical writing. 

Many people consider any technical knowledge in written work to be technical writing since technical writing includes so many different types of papers and processes.

It's critical for writers who wish to develop technical write ups to know everything there is to know about the subject, essentially becoming a subject matter expert. Writers must understand their target audience and anticipate their prior knowledge of the issue.

Experts in any field, for example, will be familiar with the jargon, acronyms, abbreviations, and other words used in that field. Most of those things will be lost on someone who is unfamiliar with the subject. In this situation, a writer must change their writing style to appeal to varied audiences.

As a result, technical writers must have a thorough understanding of a variety of topics. As a result, they will be able to better cater to varied audiences as needed. This is a crucial component of any technical writer's or writing team's work. If you don't have a knowledgeable staff, you won't be able to write in a style that appeals to a wide range of readers.

Did you know that, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Technical writers can make up to $74,650 per year? Not only that, the position has some of the most promising job prospects for the next decade.

Here are two courses you can take that will get you a certificate in technical writing:

  1. Technical Writing course from Tombolo Institute at Bellevue College
  2. Technical Writing course from Pima Community College
A technical writer
Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Some key differences between the two

After going through all of that, you might be asking what are the specific differences that set both styles apart. While there is some overlap between these two styles, such as communicating complex ideas into easy-to-understand writeups, there are two important differences that set these two apart.

1. The target audience

The audience for both technical and business written material is a big difference between both writing styles. While both of them require readers, business writing deals with more interpersonal information than technical writing does.

Technical writing may also be used in a corporate environment. For example, if a company has to convey more technical information, it will utilize technical writers. A report on the impact of smartphones on the mental health of teenagers would be considered technical writing, even if it is sent to the company for which the writer works.

A presentation summarizing the findings of this report and its impact on smartphone sales, on the other hand, made to the board of directors would be considered business writing. 

So, in essence, it is not the environment but the audience that dictates the writing style. An official memo written by an employee at a science lab is a piece of business communication even though the setting is the science lab while a report on the impact of opioids on the human brain generated by the same employee would be technical writing.

This brings us to the second key difference between technical and business writing.

2. Using tone to communicate

In business writing, keep in mind that the tone will shift as writers write for different audiences. Business writing is more geared toward an audience of people from within or outside of a company. 

While it covers a wide range of subject matter, it's always crucial to make the content simple to comprehend. The tone of a business writer will vary depending on "who" he or she is writing for. 

For example, to make a summer discount sale more appealing to consumers, a writer might need to employ a more convincing voice. An internal memo giving out the details of the discounts, on the other hand, can be written in a more direct or formal tone. 

Alternatively, if the same information is sent to a key vendor or partner, a more warm and pleasant tone is required in an email.

All of the examples above depict a circumstance in which clear and easy to comprehend writing is required, but the tone that must be used depends on the audience. Technical writing, on the other hand, rarely changes tone. 

Because the purpose of technical writing is to clearly explain something, there is a lot less interpersonal communication. Technical writers attempt to explain subjects and processes that the majority of people find too complex to understand. 

A camera’s instruction manual or instructions for installing software on your laptop are both examples of this.

Another method to determine the difference is to examine the text's wording. Technical writing should be impersonal, and a writer's focus should be on effectively transmitting the necessary information to the appropriate audience.

The target audience of a text has little bearing on the tone of technical writing, but it does have an effect on how the writer writes. If you're writing for a professional audience, for example, you'll need to use different terms and phrases than if you're writing for a general audience.

For the general population, you may need to explain concepts differently or cover topics in a broader manner than you would for a group of scientists, for example. Good writers will be able to describe each subject in such a way that the majority of readers will comprehend it.

Overlap in both styles

These writing styles frequently overlap, and many writers produce work that falls into both categories. Technical writers may also be used by some businesses to develop more complicated reports, whitepapers, and other related materials.

There's a reason why technical and business writing is so closely related, to the point that people mistake one for the other. It's because both styles strive to be reader-friendly. Writers frequently use the same type of concise language, word choices, and formal tone. To convey information, you'll probably see a lot of numbered or bulleted lists.

Final Word

The distinctions between technical and business writing are often subtle. Depending on the audience, the writing style will typically differ. In general, business writing focuses on interpersonal communication, whereas technical writing focuses on instructional qualities.

There is, however, a clear instance where each should be employed. Understanding the similarities and differences between the two will help you make an informed decision on when to use each type of writing style, and also when not to.

In this article, we have attempted to do just that and we hope that you have found it useful.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is different in business writing?

What are the examples of technical writing?

What are the 4 types of business writing?

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