The art of writing Part 1

  • February 2014
  • Posted By Practical Editing

How do technical writing and creative writing differ?

For me, technical writing involves the use of all my training and experience as an engineer and more. I have to understand the work, ensure that the sense, meaning and language meet the needs of the intended audience and then, sometimes, a document needs to be dissected and reassembled to meet various criteria.

Technical writing should not be written to then laze away on the shelf watching blunders occur that it was written to avert, or for a scientific discovery to be ignored.

These documents are written for a purpose; to propose an idea, to finalise a project, to apply for funding, to set out the direction of an organisation or group, or to create a technical specification.

Using precise language is always important in technical writing. It can also be vital in creative writing when expressing something specific or a key plot element. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking others will derive meaning as the writer intended. Interpretation is everything. If a document is being used to apply for funding or to propose a project, any hidden, lost or misunderstood meaning in the language of the document can cause confusion and may result in lost opportunities for all parties.

So, you might be wondering why the comparison to creative writing?

As I plunge further into the world of creative writing, I am finding more and more that the execution of such a large volume of work, independent of the content, is much the same as I have just described. It may be argued that they differ only in intent.

Both types of writing require an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Both require using precise language to convey sense and meaning. They are perhaps different ends of the same spectra. Consistently, like a good story, reports require the reader to be open to the subject matter in order to believe an author’s words. If you didn’t believe me, you wouldn’t still be reading. So the next time you face writing a lengthy report, or begin etching out a behemoth novel, spare a thought for the writer of the other. You are fighting the same fight, slaying dragons and reams of data. You are both using words in a battle to win over your reader.

The art of writing Part 2 will discuss intent versus content: why are they so linked yet entirely separate?

Other blogs in this series:

The art of writing Part 2