Creative Writing vs. Technical Writing

What is the difference between creative writing and technical writing?

Today, after learning what creative writing is and how to get started in it, we’re going to compare the two of them.

There are writers all over the world in the two categories – and it boggles the mind to hear that millions have been made from both creative writing and technical writing. Some have made fortunes. While some have not made anything.

Enjoyment can be gained from both types, but it’s fair to say that they both serve different purposes. They both have their own do’s and don’ts and they both have their own rules. Both are governed by grammar and style. Both appear everywhere. So what’s the difference?

Here’s my take: creative writing is written for the right brain (creative) and technical writing is written for the left brain (logical). Confused yet? Wait, there’s more…

A Further Look into Creative Writing

Creative writing is written to entertain and educate. We enjoy reading novels and stories, not because they are necessary to read or helpful for us, just because we get a certain pleasure from reading them, the pleasure which can’t be got from reading technical writing.

Creative writing has so many genres and sub-genres that they deserve a whole section of an article for themselves. It sometimes follows a given set of rules, and sometimes throws caution to the winds and breaks all of them. Either way, talent is somewhat of a necessary ingredient if you want to write creatively. Of course, writing can be improved by practice. But if you don’t have the necessary talent, your writing would not give pleasure to anyone.

Skills and talent both make up creative writing. Hence, they are its constituents.

Further reading: An Introduction to Creative Writing

A Further Look into Technical Writing

Technical writing is wholly written to inform and sometimes to trigger the person reading into making an action beneficial to the one of the writer. Whoa, what a mouthful. That’s not a subject I’m going to cover here (copywriting), but if you want to know more about it, you can visit the master of its game, Copyblogger.com.

I already gave the examples of technical writing in the first post of the series. If you look at them with the context of copywriting, they make much more sense. Copywriters are some of the highest paid writers, says Copyblogger. Sales letters, pitches, advertisements, etc constitute copywriting.

Technical writing is not written to entertain. It has its own set of rules, conventions, do’s and don’ts, masterpieces and pieces of rubbish. There is a whole art to mastering technical writing, although it too is branched: online technical writing and offline technical writing. Personally, I think that if you want to master technical writing, you should first master concise and magnetic writing that draws the reader in, regardless of whether it’s creative or technical.

Are you a master or a learner of concise writing? If you are, so am I, and I’m going to cover it here in future posts. Creative leads or hooks contribute to it.

So that’s it for creative writing. The differences between creative writing and technical writing are that creative writing is written mainly to entertain with the creativity of the mind and technical writing is written mainly to inform in a formal manner or to incite the reader to make an action such as purchase the writer’s product.

This, in a mouthful, is the main difference. In the beginning of this article, I made my own claim: right brain vs. Left brain. However, they deserve an article of their own, and not here. If you want to know more, you can always do your own research.

For my part, I’m going to focus on creative writing tips here, mainly because this is a creative writing blog and I’m much more interested by creative writing than by technical writing. Next post will be solely on fiction writing elements. Stay tuned.

This is the third instalment in the 8-part series “Creative Writing 101.”

Comments

  1. Craig says

    Great post, and you’ve summed up the difference quite nicely! Technical writing definitely requires a lot of analytical thinking. Persuasion is still necessary; you have to convince people to read the documentation, otherwise they don’t bother. You have to give them a good reason to learn. But it’s definitely more instructive. As a result, technical writers who dabble in fiction tend to write really dry stuff!

    • Idrees says

      Great comment — I fully agree. Technical writers have to be passive writers. Informal language is of course a big no-no.

      By the way, I checked out your blog, very nice. Just wondering why you don’t allow comments. Anyway, nice job.

      • E. Popper says

        Hi there,

        I work in the United States, so it’s possible that the expectations are different, but here in the US, good technical writing is often quite informal and friendly. I’ve been a lead Technical Writer for more than 18 years, and not only is “informal” acceptable, it’s often expected.

        The point of a well-written Technical document is to get the other person to understand the idea you want to convey. The best way to achieve that is with clear, simple language. Fancy, formal phrasing and choosing long words just to prove that you know them often distracts from the ideas you want to communicate.

        For example, the first instruction that I give to Junior Tech Writers who work for me is: use contractions! No “it is” and “you will,” why clutter up the page? Instead, a good Tech Writer will use “it’s” and “you’ll” which keeps things simpler for the reader.

        Passive voice is a real “no-no” when it comes to good Tech Writing. Almost everything is written in the imperative mood, for example: “Locate the ‘Create HTML’ link and click it.” The reader (at least in the US/European market that I write for) wants to know how something works as quickly and simply as possible. Apologetic or passive language is an frustrating distraction from what they want to learn.

        Another important thing to note is how helpful a warm tone can be – this is part of the reason that the best tech docs are written in a casual voice. A warm, friendly, accessible style of writing sends the message that the topic being covered is not that complicated, and the reader will be able to understand it.

        Finally, Technical Writing is one of the most creative kinds of writing out there. You need to be an extremely creative wordsmith to evoke passion, pathos and humor while discussing the requirements of an API. You also need very strong graphic and visual design skills. Document layout and the treatment of images is intrinsic to the clarity of the finished doc.

        Take a look at some of those “For Idiots” books – they may not be my favorites, but they give an example of some of the things I’m talking about.

        I hope I’ve given you all some food for thought, and I hope some of you start seeing Technical Writing in a new way.

        Best of luck with your studies!

  2. Craig says

    Thanks! As far as not allowing comments, I’ve found that between writing posts and family obligations, I just don’t have time to respond to comments. So I figured I’d just remove them. You’re blog is great; keep up the good work!

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