With only one word differing the two terms, the confusion between technical writing and technical content writing is understandable.
Further adding to this confusion is the fact that the two disciplines require similar skill sets and can even cross paths in many instances.
However, the ultimate aims of technical writing and technical content writing are distinct, as are readers’ expectations of them.
While they do share commonalities, they are crafted to serve different purposes.
What is technical writing?
The objective of technical writers is to take complex concepts and present them in a simplified way to their audiences. This may be through user manuals or guides, technical reports or documentation.
Regardless of what the final format will be, the technical writer is responsible for explaining and documenting these ideas and principles in a way that makes them easier to understand.
They must deliver the information in the clearest of terms so that an audience can process and perform specific tasks.
For example, a technical writer may produce a guide that instructs readers on how to develop or modify React components on a website.
As technical writing should be as simplified as possible, the tone of voice is likely to be direct and concise.
The content is not trying to be entertaining or attention-grabbing but rather informative and straightforward.
While some technical content may adopt a more fun and informative tone to meet a brand’s image, this is usually the exception rather than the rule.
What is technical content writing?
Technical content writers will also have specific goals, but these will be more focused on reaching their audiences with relevant and engaging content about technical subjects.
These high-quality content pieces can help to drive sales and marketing projections by bringing fresh eyes to a website and establishing trust and authority.
To achieve this, technical content writers should always understand how best to optimise their content through the use of keywords.
In order to drive traffic to their site, they must first ensure they have the best visibility to their target audiences.
SEO optimisation and content strategy is key to ranking high in search engines for common search terms that relate to their topic.
In contrast, technical writers do not need to compete with other pieces of content in the same way.
Put it this way, if a reader was looking for a specific manual on how to set up their printer, they are likely to find this resource online easily.
If they were looking for more general information on how to build a printer, there would likely be a lot of online articles competing for their attention on this subject.
Technical content writers, therefore, need to make sure that their content not only ranks well in search engines but produced in a tone that appeals to their audience.
Technical writing vs technical content writing
There are many similarities between technical writing and technical content writing.
Both are likely to specialise in a niche, require significant research, and ultimately aims to transport complex subjects to their readers in the simplest of terms.
However, the intention of technical writing is to present the information required for the reader to perform a task.
Technical content writing intends to best equip the reader to understand a subject or do a specific action, such as building that printer.
It may appear to be a small distinction, but it is an important one.
That is not to say that technical writing and technical content writing cannot complement one another, however.
A technical content writer may need to tap into the breadth of knowledge that a technical writer has to gain a better understanding of a subject.
In return, a technical writer may need to utilise the technical content writer’s engaging tone and understanding of SEO optimisation for that knowledge to reach a wider audience.
If you’re interested in technical writing, or copywriting in general, check out our copywriting guide.