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Friday, May 24, 2019

Am I a Tech Writer or a Writer of Tech

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Are you a tech writer or a writer of tech?  Depending how you answer this question, makes a difference. This sounds like I'm making a Shibboleth out of it. But this goes beyond semantics. Let me explain what it means to be a tech writer versus a writer of tech.

Technical Writer

A technical writer is one who writes and edits technical or business communication for a company or an organization. This could be anything from help files, reference guides, user guides, standard operation procedures (SOP), reference guides, or white papers. You're usually writing about a particular product, a service, or a procedure. Typically, you're showing people how to use a product or a service or how to perform a procedure. (When you write white papers, it's typically information about an idea, concept, or topic. And when you write reference guides, it's typically some referential material that usually compliments a product, a service, or a procedure.)

Technical writers typically wordsmith for a company as an employee or an independent contractor. The technical writer's goal is to show the customer how to do something. 

Technology Writer

A technology writer is one who writes about technology or upcoming technological trends. Technology writers typically write for periodicals, such as newspapers or magazines. Technology writers may even write for websites or blogs. Technology writers will write articles about a particular technology, trends, or a new product, such as a device, an accessory, or a laptop.

Technology writers typically work for the publication or the website or freelance for them, not the company it's writing about. Technology writers may even write how-to or troubleshooting articles.

The technology writer's goal is to inform the reader about technology.

Typically, Usually with Exceptions

You might have noticed I've used the modifiers "typically" or "usually". It's because there are exceptions to this. Sometimes, there's a blending between the two roles or where the writers work at. Also, what these writers write about may not always neatly into a category.

Tech Writer: A Catch-All, An Abbreviated Job Title, or A Cause of Confusion

Both types of writers are called tech writers. While this term is a nice catch-all, it gets dicey and probably has caused confusion with some. I've run into this myself, where people mistaken me for a technology writer. I've had to clarify I'm not a technology writer but a technical writer and what that means. I even misapplied for jobs where I thought they were calling for a technical writer, but they were really calling for a technology writer. 

Calling a technical writer or a technology writer a tech writer isn't wrong. Both start with "tech". Both write about technology. It's just technical writers and technology writers are approaching how to write about technology from different angles. 

I've been called a tech writer more than a technical writer in my time. I take no offense to this. I'm not suggesting either or both sides should stop using the term "tech writer." It's fine. As long as we define our terms in the context we are in, then we're good.

Sorry, if this is making your head spin. It's making mine. (Sometimes, I wish we could just write without the complications and call it a day.)

One Goal Out of Many Tech Writers

Despite our differences as tech writers, we should unite behind one underlying goal. This goal must be to help our audience by giving them accurate, helpful, appropriate, straightforward, and easy-to-follow information. As tech writers, we must adopt this common goal for our audience as our E pluribus unum.

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