Technical Writing versus Copy Writing

There are more differences than similarities between Technical Writing and Copy Writing when it is the matter of their objectives. Being a Technical Writer myself and having known what my advertising acquaintances write, let me explain what is Copy Writing first and then the differences between the two writings.

What is Copy Writing?

Copy Writing is a writing style intended to advertise or sell a product or a service. In the context of Copy Writing, a copy is a piece of text written to sell and/or promote a product or a service.

A Copy Writer writes to bring a reader to try a product demo, sign a mailing list, subscribe to the corporate website or follow their blog, purchase a product, or call a service provider.

What Does a Copy Writer Write?

A Copy Writer writes Flyers, Billboards, eMail or print Adverts, Email Campaigns, Lyrics for radio/TV Jingles, Scripts for TV/Radio Adverts, and Email Letters; to name a few. They write copies for both print and electronic media.

Difference between Technical Writing and Copy Writing

The fundamental difference lies in the objectives of Technical Writing and Copy Writing.

Technical Writing is mainly concerned with explaining. It involves:

  • Informing – What, When, Where, Who, and Why.
  • Instructing – How to.

Copy Writing is oriented towards:

  • Encouraging the reader to buy a product or avail a service.
  • Promoting a product or a service.

The writing style and tone in Technical Writing are different from that of  Content Writing.

A Technical Writer describes the technical information to the readers by considering the level of readers’ education and experience. Any vague terms like more, sometimes, many, etc., don’t appear in technical documents. A Technical Writer needs to write precisely how much more, at what specific times, or exactly how many. A Technical Writer needs to write by confining to a specific vocabulary and formatting rules strictly. The language in Technical Writing is very straightforward. This turns any technical document quite boring for a common reader.

For example, only a mechanical engineer or an automobile engineering student would be interested to read gear motor operation manual. A common reader deviates from a technical professional in education and life experience. The prior does not require an elaborate and specific technical information that the latter does. Since technical professionals are a subset of the people in general, the audience of a Technical Writer is limited.

Copy Writing

A Copy Writer considers all his readers as prospective buyers. Since a copy is intended for a large audience of varied demographics, he can use words or phrases that contain generic terms such as highest, largest, cheapest, anything, etc. A Copy Writer uses persuasive language and writes naturally with a  conversational tone. A Copy Writer needs to write in a friendly manner to reach to the maximum number of readers on a personal level and provoke their interest in the product or service he is writing for. Hence to a large extent, the content of the copy becomes interesting for a common reader. Writing a brief copy skillfully that can grab readers’ attention and compel the reader to engage with the business is a challenge in Copy Writing.

Here is a crisp comparison between Technical Writing and Copy Writing:

Element Technical Writing Copy Writing
Tone Always Formal Casual and Entertaining
Vocabulary Specific Generic
Audience Limited Wide
Writer’s Viewpoint Objective Subjective
Information 

Organization

Alphabetical, Chronological, Logical, or Thematic. Random
Information

Accuracy

Requirement

Highly Accurate, inaccuracy is not tolerated Non-damaging inaccuracy is forgiven
Document
Structure
A Technical Document often contains Headings of multiple levels, Table of Contents, Images, Tables, and Charts. The graphical elements are added to support the textual information. A Marketing Copy contains brief textual information with Images. The graphical elements are added to capture readers’ attention to add a visual appeal.
Tools Required Adobe® Technical Communication Suite, Text Editors, Image Editing Software, Screen Capturing Tools, Dictionary, Cloud Storage. Adobe® Creative Suite, Keyword Search Tools, Business Dictionary, Text Editors, Rhyming Words Search, Basic Design, Image Editing, and Copy Evaluation Tools, Cloud Storage.
Inherent Qualities Required Ability to grasp technical information quickly, Ability to simplify complex information, Flair for writing, An eye for detail, Command over language, Straightforwardness is a plus. Salesmanship, Ability to observe and understand people’s nerve, Sense of aesthetics and humor, Liking for Social Media, Wide life-vocabulary, Command over language, Sense of Humor is a plus.
Creativity Almost nil Absolute
Required in Product-based and Service-based Organizations Advertising, Online B2B, and B2C Organizations
Output Format Document Copy

To sum it up:

It’s all up to your objectives for your organization. If you need to explain some complex information to your in-house audience or otherwise, reach out to a Technical Writer. If you need to grab the readers’ attention to what you sell and provoke them to add to your organization’s revenue, then approach a Copy Writer.

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