Business Writing vs. Technical Writing: Understanding the Difference

There are many similarities between technical and business writing. It's important to know when to use which technique.

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Have you ever wondered what the difference is between business and technical writing? Because these writing styles can often be so similar, it can be hard to tell them apart. However, there are a few significant differences between technical and business writing, and it’s these differences that we’ll be focusing on in this article.

Whether you’re new to the industry or want a refresher, this is the article for you. In it, we’ll cover:

  • The basics of technical writing with a few examples.
  • The definition of business writing with some examples.
  • The differences and similarities between business and technical writing.
  • Why you might want a professional technical writing service.

First, we’ll need to talk about what these two terms mean. That way, we can better understand the differences between them. Let’s start with technical writing.

What Is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is a style of writing where an author needs to explain a certain subject, typically one with a technical or complex nature. Usually, these topics need a decent amount of explanation, instruction, or direction. It’s quite a bit different from other writing styles. It also serves a completely different purpose than creative, academic, or business writing.

Usually, technical writers will create easy-to-understand text, whether specific instructions for something, a manual, report, or something else entirely. Technical writing creates a clear and efficient way of talking about or explaining something and how it might work.

Technical writing generally falls into two categories: tangible and abstract. Tangible writing deals with items that a person can touch or see, like explaining computer software or giving instructions regarding building a specific piece of furniture. Abstract writing focuses more on describing things unrelated to tangible objects, such as office policies or processes.

Technical writing is typically used for creating manuals, technical instructions, analysis reports, and product assembly guides.
Technical writing is typically used for creating manuals, technical instructions, analysis reports, and product assembly guides.

Traditionally, technical writing includes instruction manuals, policy manuals, user manuals, analysis reports, product assembly instructions, and other similar documents. Because technical writing covers so many kinds of documents and processes, many people consider including any technical information in written work as technical writing.

For writers who want to create technical documents, it’s essential to understand everything about the subject, essentially being a subject matter expert. Writers need to know their audience and anticipate the knowledge they already have about the subject.

For example, experts in any field will know specific acronyms, abbreviations, or other terms that apply to that field. Someone new to the topic won’t understand most of those things. In that case, a writer needs to alter how they write to appeal to different audiences.

Because of that, technical writers should have a broad understanding of many different topics. That way, they can better cater to various audiences when needed. This is an absolutely essential part of any technical writer or writing team. If you don’t have a knowledgeable team, they won’t be able to write in such a way that different audiences can understand the subject.

What Is Business Writing?

Business writing is somewhat similar to technical writing, but there are a few key differences. For one, business writers usually aren’t concerned with instructing people how to do things; they don’t write manuals or instructions.

Instead, business writers focus on writing pieces for professional settings. Usually, this kind of work is all about creating useful writing that conveys important information to a reader concisely, clearly, and effectively.

Some examples include proposals, whitepapers, reports, business cards, memos, and emails. You might view it as standard copywriting, but it’s more focused on business use. These writers need to be concise and use correct grammar, sentence structure, and professional language. That way, it’s very easy for readers to understand while still being appropriate to a formal business setting.

There are four main kinds of business writing: instructional, informational, persuasive, and transactional. Instructional business writing is more directional, so its purpose is to guide the reader through various steps to finish a task. This is also the most like technical writing, and it might include things like user manuals or memos.

Business writing focuses on documents and communications used in a professional business setting. It can include everything, from emails to internal memos and manuals.
Business writing focuses on documents and communications used in a professional business setting. It can include everything, from emails to internal memos and manuals.

Informational business writing is all about keeping track of business information accurately and consistently. It often includes documents that are key to the core of a business’ tracking of growth, plans, and legal issues. An example of this kind of writing might include a company’s financial report, minute meetings, and report writing.

Persuasive business writing aims to influence a reader’s decision by conveying vital information to guide them to take a certain action. The goal might be to get a person to buy a specific product or think that the company offers the best value. Usually, people associate this kind of writing with sales or marketing. It can include proposals, press releases, sales emails, and more.

The last kind of business writing is transactional. This kind of writing mostly includes day-to-day workplace communication. Most people do this kind of writing for emails, official office letters, invoices, or forms.

The Difference Between Business and Technical Writing

After reading through all of that, you might be wondering what the specific differences between technical and business writing are. Many people consider technical and business writing to be the same thing. While it’s true that there’s quite a bit of overlap with these two styles, like the need for proofreading, there are also a few key variations that make these two styles distinct.

The Audience

A big difference between technical and business writing is the audience. Business and technical writing are reader-focused, but business writing deals more with interpersonal information than technical writing.

Businesses will use technical writing when they need to convey more technical information. An email from HR introducing a new hire doesn’t fall under the technical writing category. However, a report from a field geologist would qualify as technical writing, even if the geologist sends it to the company for which they work.

Changing the Tone

Keep in mind that, as people write for different audiences, the tone will change. Business writing is more focused on an audience of people from internal or external businesses. It’s diverse, but it’s always important to make the content easy to understand.

“Who” a business writer is writing for will vary the tone quite a bit. For example, a writer might need to use a more persuasive voice to emphasize certain aspects of a special offer. On the other hand, a writer might decide to use a more direct or formal tone for an internal memo. An email to a new client might require using a more warm and friendly tone.

All of the examples show a situation that needs clear and accessible writing, but the audience alters the tone a writer needs to use. However, technical writing doesn’t often change tone. That’s because the goal of technical writing is to explain something clearly. There’s much less interpersonal communication occurring with technical writing.

Technical writers try to explain specific topics that most people generally don’t understand or need to know for most situations. Examples of this could include the instruction manual for an oven or instructions on new medications. These kinds of writing include specific instructions for specific situations.

Another way to tell the difference is to look at the language of the text. With technical writing, it should be impersonal, and the language a writer uses should effectively communicate the correct information to the right audience.

Even though the intended audience of a piece doesn’t impact the tone of professional writing, it can impact how the writer writes. For example, if you’re writing for an expert audience, you’ll need to use different words and phrases than if you were writing for the general public.

You may need to explain concepts differently or cover things in a broader sense for the general public. Good writers will be able to explain each concept so that most people can understand it.

The Crossover

These writing styles overlap quite often, and many writers will create pieces that fall under both categories. Some businesses may even use technical writers to create more complex reports, whitepapers, or other similar documents.

There are many similarities between technical and business writing. It's important to know when to use which technique.
There are many similarities between technical and business writing. It’s important to know when to use which style.

There’s a big reason that technical and business writing overlap so much, to the point of people confusing one for the other. It’s because both styles aim to be accessible to the reader. You’ll often see writers using the same kind of concise language, word choices, and a more formal tone. You’ll also probably see a good amount of numbered or bulleted lists to present information.

Why You Need a Professional Technical and Business Writing Service

If the above seems too complicated or time-consuming, you may want to consider hiring an outside writing company. That way, you don’t need to spend as much effort writing things you may not need. Let’s go over some of the most common reasons people hire writing services.

Expertise

Professional writing services purposely hire a diverse array of writers with years of experience. That way, they have a larger scope of expertise on many different topics. It’s much easier for them to assign one of their writers to your projects than it might be for you to locate a writer with knowledge about the topic. 

Even if you’re an expert in your field, you could still benefit from having a professional writer. Not only can they focus on writing and free you up for other projects, but they can also scale their writing to fit a range of audiences. Expert writers know how to write about almost any topic for most audiences, and you may not have the same level of experience. That’s okay! That’s why these kinds of services exist.

It’s normal to have concerns about outsourcing work like this, but you don’t need to worry. Companies like Captain Words have massive teams – often totaling several hundred writers. Even if your content is incredibly niche, you’ll still be able to find a technical writer that can write about it.

Editing and Proofreading

In addition to experience and expertise, third-party writing services also have the ability to edit and proofread before sending anything to you. That way, you don’t have to spend as much time doing it within your own organization.

Additionally, because writing services are full of expert writers and editors, they’ll likely catch grammar mistakes and other mistakes that you might not never have noticed. They’re trained to locate all kinds of mistakes and fix them before you’re even aware they exist.

Any good writing service will also allow and encourage feedback from you. If something isn’t right, let them know so that they can fix it.

Large Orders

If you have many different projects to do, hiring a writing service is the way to go. Writing services have multiple teams of people to work on articles. Even if you have a project that requires many different articles within tight deadlines, you probably won’t overload the company or any individual writer.

That’s because writing services can assign different articles to any writer they’ve hired. By doing so, something that seemed daunting to you might get done in just a week or two.

Conclusion

The differences between technical writing and business writing can be pretty subtle. Usually, the style of writing will change depending on the audience it’s for. Generally, business writing tends to deal with more interpersonal communication, and technical writing deals with more instructional aspects.

You can find technical and business writers teams from outside companies, which is often easier than building your own team. You don’t need to search for more people to hire, and you can always be sure that the work you get back is top quality. If it doesn’t meet your expectations, let the writer know.

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