Technical vs. Business Writing: What You Need to Know

Modern technology has made the business world increasingly complex and complicated. With so much software powering so many industries, who can keep track of how different products, services, and processes are documented?

In that sense, understanding the difference between technical and business writing can be quite confusing.

For instance, if a business writes down a strategic product plan, then it has produced a business document, even if the product is highly technical. 

By contrast, if that business creates a manual for all of its departments to use the product, then it has produced a technical document, even if the manual is critical for business success. 

Sometimes it can seem like business and technical writing are more similar than different. After all, both types of writers have the same goal of communicating information in a clear and precise manner. Their writing styles even share similar characteristics in terms of language, tone, and accessibility.

But business and technical writers ultimately compose different documents for different audiences. It’s critical for companies to understand the key differences, so that they can get the right person for the right job. 

While a business writer can get away with being loose with language, a technical writer must be extremely precise in everything they document. Failure to do this puts their company’s essential data at risk.

What is the Difference Between Technical and Business Writing?

The top differences between technical and business writing are best understood through the respective goals, audiences, tones and styles, and purposes. Let’s start by defining these components and examining them in greater detail.

What is Business Writing?

Goal

Business writing strives to communicate organizational goals, business strategies, and problem-solving situations. This can be accomplished through a variety of documentation formats, like briefs, plans, and case studies.

Audience

One of the most important aspects of business writing is the audience. Business writers should understand their readers’ goals, interests, and terminologies. 

If the audience is external, it could have an infinite number of expectations from the piece of writing – at least from the perspective of the writer. So it’s the business writer’s job to learn as much information as possible about each specific audience member’s needs.

If the audience is internal, it can still contain many different types of readers. Senior leaders, middle managers, and end-users need to know very different details about company-wide goals.

Overall, a business writer must take into account the perspectives and influences of clients, vendors, customers, colleagues, and a multitude of other stakeholders. 

Tone and Style

In business writing, tone refers to the feeling or the impression that the reader gets from the document. In general, a business writing tone should be direct, formal, and nondiscriminatory, though it will change depending on circumstances.

For example, when onboarding and training new employees, business writers want to use warm and friendly tones. However, that tone may vary in subtle ways if the document is a departmental email vs. human resources package.

By contrast, when a functional head wants to convince their VP of a new business venture, they may write in a more confident tone, and include fact-based evidence. This type of persuasive writing is common in business communication. 

To write persuasively, business writers can also utilize formatting techniques. Keeping documents short and simple is key. Regardless of a subject matter’s complexity, a clear and concise format will be more readable – and thus more convincing – than a rambling document.

Document Purpose

One of the primary purposes of business documentation is to improve day-to-day operations. Any department, from management to sales to customer service, can benefit from clear business writing. 

However, business documentation will ultimately vary depending on the goal. If a business needs to communicate an inventory update to multiple parties along a supply chain, it may enlist a business writer to compose a memo. 

Other examples of business writing include emails, reports, newsletters, invoices, press releases, confidentiality agreements, and privacy policies.

What is Technical Writing?

Goal

The purpose of technical writing is to translate complex information into simple and concise documents. This helps the target audience solve a problem or better understand how a product, service, or process operates. Technical writing is about organizing information in a clear and useful manner. It carefully balances the needs of its audience, its tone, and its purpose.

Audience

Unlike business writing, technical writing can address a wide variety of highly specific and verified audiences. The specific audience of a piece of technical documentation will vary based on the targeted industry, profession, skill level, and education, among other factors. 

For instance, writing documentation for an astrophysicist as opposed to a business administrator involves different approaches to effective communication. When documenting scientific processes, precision is of the utmost importance. If any single word, number, or symbol is incorrect, the document can be rendered useless.

The same holds true for a technical document in a business setting. Technical writing often involves explaining instructions for products and services that will be used by different departments. Once again, if a single step is out of order, employees may not be able to engage with the product at all.

Tone and Style

Technical writing is best communicated in a neutral, considered tone. This usually means conveying information in a language that focuses only on the facts. Statistics and analytics form the basis for strong technical documentation. Colorful language that prioritizes sentiment over sources is counterproductive, a mistake that can cost companies time and money.

Document Purpose

The purpose of technical documentation is to clarify an array of specialized subject matters for readers to easily understand. To execute this difficult task, technical writers meet with subject matter experts (SMEs) and spend up to 80% of their time researching.

This approach gives them the basis for quickly writing the countless types of technical documents. While user guides and standard operating procedure documents (SOPs) are commonly known, others are not. For instance, API documentation or environmental software instructions are based on ever-evolving technologies. Technical writing in these fields requires advanced knowledge, which can be harnessed to streamline business processes.

Essential Data Corporation Has Expert Technical Writers

Once you’re familiar with the top differences between business and technical writers, the specific value that each type of writer provides should become more obvious. If you need clear, concise, and effective proposals for a joint business venture, or press releases and newsletters for marketing, Essential Data has expert technical writers that can create documentation to meet all your organizational goals. EDC also offers assistance with creating technical documentation in the medical, IT, education, finance, manufacturing, and aerospace industries. 

Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, Essential Data provides the highest quality of technical writing services in every industry. Throughout your entire project, you will work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices at no additional cost, and the quality of our work is guaranteed. To get started, contact us, schedule a free consultation, call 800-221-0093, or email sales@edc.us – whatever is easiest for you.

Updated September 12, 2022

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