One of the most important skills for all kinds of businesses is clear effective writing. Written business communication takes many forms, and employees at every level of an organization inevitably come into contact with it, whether as reader, writer—or both!
They say reading is essential. So is writing. But what type of writing is most important for business? Technical and business writing. Let’s discuss what they are and how they differ.
What’s the Difference Between a Business and Technical Writer?
In organizations that can afford a robust staff with dedicated specialists, business and technical writers can have entirely different jobs.
In other businesses, often with smaller budgets, there might not be much of a difference. If the same staff are assigned with writing business and technical reports, as well as all other communication tasks, an organization can fall into a pattern of churning out the same kinds of texts for different mediums.
But that’s a problem, because there are real differences between business and technical writing.
Namely, they are different forms, or genres, of writing.
Genre: Audience, Convention, and Expectations
In writing, form gives purpose to content.
Different forms of writing are called genres. You might think of genres as broad categories like fiction and poetry, or smaller subcategories like romance and sci-fi. But genre can mean any specific kind of writing with a well-defined audience. For every genre there’s usually an expectation.
The audience for a piece of writing is the people who it is written to and for. The conventions are the rules and norms that this audience establishes over time. They can bend, break, and get rebuilt over time. But the current conventions of a genre will guide how a piece of writing in that specific category looks and functions.
For example, conventions govern things like:
- Formatting and scope
- Language and style
- Plot and characters
- Purpose and goals
The differences between technical and business writers are based in genre.
What differentiates a reported news story from an argumentative op ed article in the same newspaper? One is written for an audience expecting objective facts; the other is written with the express purpose of arguing a point of view. The effectiveness of a news story has to do with accuracy and accessibility. The effectiveness of an op ed has to do with persuasion and style.
Between these two kinds of writing there are many shared qualities. But they’re distinct enough that you can tell one from the other almost immediately.
Likewise, the biggest differences between a business writer and technical writer is the genre each works within: business writing and technical writing, respectively.
Technical Writing vs. Business Writing
On the whole, technical writing and business writing are genres defined by their purposes.
Technical writing is devoted to complex subject matter. It’s written by experts with in-depth experience in a field, and its audience is often peers with similar experience.
Business writing, on the other hand, is all about what its name implies: business. It exists to boost sales and profits, and its audiences include everyone from company personnel to immediate clientele and the general public.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Business Writing: The Language of Commerce
In business writing the goal is always connected to the main goal of the business—profit. How the writing achieves that goal can vary widely, but that is always the ultimate purpose.
There are more direct ways of writing for profit, such as sales and marketing. But there are also ways to influence profit indirectly, such as growing influence and building brand identity. Public-facing documents make up a sizable portion of business writing.
In addition, business writing also includes content that’s not public-facing, such as internal documentation and correspondence with other companies and regulatory agencies.
Some of the most common and important kinds of business writing include:
- Ads – Advertisements and marketing exist to turn consumers into customers. They deliver information that persuades potential buyers to pay for your goods or services. To do so, they employ techniques like:
- Appealing to consumers’ desires
- Featuring attractive qualities of your offerings
- Comparing your company (favorably) to competitors
- Memos – These are internal documents that convey information to employees within the organization, or even other businesses’ personnel. They break down complex information into a shorter message that:
- Uses short paragraphs and direct language
- Is front-loaded with key takeaways
- Typically contains one or more calls to action (CTAs)
- Minutes – These are written proof of the contents of meetings. They’re for internal use primarily, but in many cases thorough minutes are also required for regulatory reasons and may be subject to request from outside agencies. Minutes:
- Are recorded during a meeting, or from an audio recording of a meeting
- Provide a paper trail of all things said, and by whom
- Proposals – An essential part of business deals, proposals are pitches directed at other business entities or other internal divisions within an organization. They are persuasive documents meant to convince their audiences to:
- Buy a good or service
- Promote or support an individual entity
- White papers – A type of high-level proposal, these documents are used for business-to-business marketing. In many cases these papers are somewhat technical in nature, but their goal alignment with corporate interests makes them more business-oriented. White papers provide:
- An overview of a given product, policy, or procedure
- The underlying philosophy of a company
All types of business writing prioritize directness and simplicity. The idea is not to dumb things down or misrepresent the truth. But there’s always value in making messages as accessible and persuasive as possible. Jargon and complexity should be avoided and accompanied by careful explanation when it’s necessary to use.
In business writing the goal of profit trumps secondary aims like objectivity or education.
Business writers do sometimes appeal to specific audiences, but these appeals need to be open ended and accommodating for all readers. On the other hand, while technical writing may be read widely, its target audiences are typically geared towards a specific reader.
That’s because technical writing prioritizes accuracy and diligence.
Technical Writing: Expertise, Delivered
Technical writing exists in order to enlighten—to explain and educate. In corporate settings, business technical writing also exists to document and provide evidence for outside observers.
Unlike business writing, technical writing is not inherently concerned with convincing its readers to purchase goods or generally enact CTAs that support the business. Those CTAs may still be present in technical writing, but they’re not a key aspect.
Instead, technical writing is objective in tone and register. It states facts and interprets phenomena then draws careful conclusions. It presents observations, not opinions. Where opinions do appear, they are qualified and justified with extensive research and analysis.
Technical writing includes, but is not limited to:
- Audits and regulatory reports – Detailed, accurate reports of internal and external affairs are necessary for compliance in many fields, including:
- Military contracting
- Payment card industry
- Manuals and specifications – Product descriptions and user manuals are some of the most common technical writing projects. Experts are needed to ensure that information is correct, directions are easy to follow, and dangerous mistakes are hard to make. Documents produced also include:
- Training materials and guides
- FAQs and customer service manuals
- Policy and governance – While it’s not always necessary for internal policy and procedures to be written by qualified professionals, there are innumerable benefits to having a vetted expert write policy that’s clear and protects all personnel. Having a technical writer handle policy documentation ensures:
- Clear protocols for behavior
- More effective rules
- Lower liability
- Cybersecurity – Finally, cybersecurity is one of the most important areas where technical writing expertise is needed. Cybersecurity technical writing is necessary for:
- Creating and documenting cyberdefenses
- Reporting on threats and vulnerabilities
- Corresponding with stakeholders impacted by attacks
Among all these varied kinds of technical writing certain principles are shared. Language is objective and impersonal. Facts are presented and interpreted, and important takeaways are presented in accessible language. Jargon is more acceptable in technical writing than it is in general business writing, but it’s still accompanied by baseline definitions of key terms and explanations of dynamic topics.
Most importantly, all these documents feature the competence of the writer and, by extension, the business that hired the writer.
But business and technical writing aren’t the only kinds of writing organizations lead with.
Other Forms and Hybrids
Technical and business writing aren’t always completely distinct from each other. Nor are they the only kinds of writing a given business should concern itself with.
In many cases the lines between technical and business writing can be blurred. When ad copy contains statistical information from research reports, technical writing is integrated into a business form. When said research reports contain explicit sales-oriented CTAs, the technical genre incorporates business writing elements.
Plus, your company may need to produce other forms of writing and communications that don’t fit neatly into either category, such as:
- Social Media – Profiles on sites like Facebook or Twitter enable companies to interact with other users and browse user-generated content to leverage toward branding and marketing ends. Writing on these platforms consists of:
- Profile creation and maintenance
- “About us” and other informational content
- Posts, similar to blogs (see below)
- Regular interaction with others’ posts
- Creative Writing – Typically associated with literary pursuits like novels and poetry, creative writing is less a genre than an approach. It can inform any kind of writing your organization produces, including copy across every different channel. The best writing in any genre will sport creative elements, like:
- Gripping language and style
- Clear and accessible structure
- Blogs – Blogs are pieces of a content hosted on a company’s website that are updated regularly with new posts or articles. These posts typically walk a fine line between not just business and technical writing, but also other genres and forms like news reporting and creative writing. Blogs can serve many purposes, including:
- Educational guides
- Establishing authority and expertise
- Opinion editorials
- Reviews and analysis
- SEO-driven brand building
These various kinds of writing feature both sharp distinctions and vast grey areas of overlap. So, robust and comprehensive technical writing services can offer solutions for the various writing needs and issues facing any company.
Benefits of Technical Writing Services
Writing is a process.
It isn’t just defined by any particular piece of writing. Instead, it’s the process that goes into producing, perfecting, and publishing documents regularly.
By hiring professionals you’re ensuring that the writing your company needs is being taken care of by experts who’ve perfected their process over years of experience. A professional technical or business writing process includes:
- Detailed research and discovery
- Vetting of all information
- Multiple rounds of drafting
- Feedback from multiple experts
- Intensive editing and revision
Writing is hard work. So is editing. You want the texts produced to have a polished, professional sheen. Possibly the biggest impact that professional services have on your company’s writing is the application of detailed technical editing.
Editing is what shapes and finishes any document. It’s the most important part of writing.
Editing is Key
Experienced editors know just how deep a dive a particular document deserves. The depth of editing is also dependent on the quality of the writing, and when you have good writing skills to start with, the editing process is much facilitated.
Technical writing requires experienced technical editors to review all substantive information for completeness and correctness. Having Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on hand makes it possible to ensure this high caliber of quality. RSI Security staffs multiple SMEs who not only edit the technical writing, but remain active and certified in their particular specializations.
Professional Technical Writing and Cybersecurity
Here at RSI Security we’re committed to helping your organization with all its cybersecurity needs, including technical documentation. If your company’s internal IT or other teams are overburdened, our technical documentation services offer comprehensive solutions for any and all technical writing you may need.
Unlike many other technical writing companies, our expertise in cybersecurity is unparalleled.
We also offer robust cybersecurity solutions to ensure that your organization is safe and sound while meeting all required regulatory requirements. From basic compliance to in-depth analytics like penetration testing, RSI is your best option for cyberdefense.
Contact RSI today for a free consultation and see why our writers and staff make documentation and compliance effortless so you can keep doing what you do best.