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What is the difference between technical communication and copywriting?

By Tania Turner


Technical communication and the technical communicator

Technical communication is a very broad field and includes a wide range of professionals including graphic designers, information architects, web developers, engineers, scientists and medical professionals.

The technical communicator’s job is to present technical information, explanations or instructions in a clear, straightforward and easy to follow style. This type of communication is not just presenting information; it is making sure that the audience understands clearly, what the author wants to explain. The aim of all technical information is to communicate often complex or difficult instructions, concepts or tasks in a clear non-personal and easily understood way.

Examples of what information a technical communicator will produce, and for whom, are:

  • Manuals and handbooks for users
  • Technical documentation for medical staff, engineers, architects etc.
  • White papers and marketing documents for customers

The most important part of successful technical writing is to understand who your audience is, what are their needs and background. No matter how good you are at writing, a failure to identify the intended reader is a main reason why technical information fails to successfully inform and be useful.

The next stage is to collect information; this is done through extensive research and is the most time consuming. It is essential that the technical communicator thoroughly understands the information or product, so that they can relay it in the clearest way possible. It is a real skill to be able to create a balance between detail and simplicity.

The copywriter

Copywriters cover a wide range of writing, not just advertisements, but the main purpose of copywriting is to persuade and influence readers for marketing purposes of some sort. This involves a creative process to produce compelling, catchy and persuasive copy using positive, often lyrical and rhythmic language. Copy with visual images combining both psychological and linguistic features, which when successful, produce a brand image that can be compelling and recognisable to many audiences, whether they are targeted or not.

Examples of the type of writing copywriters produce are:

  • Advertising and marketing copy for businesses, including ads, business plans, circulars, sales letters and emails
  • Public relations copy. This includes speech writing, press releases, articles etc.
  • Audio-visual for radio, television and the Internet
  • Online content. This is a growing area for copywriters, and includes content for websites, digital marketing and blog content.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Copywriters are used by charities, recruiters, governments and local councils, celebrities and politicians as ghost writers. As you can see, a copywriter is employed by many different types of businesses and organisations, and it is a very creative profession.

Their goals when writing

Technical communicators and copywriters have different aims, although there are places where they overlap.

Technical communicators  want to impartially inform and communicate information to enable their readers to use products or understand concepts more easily. Copywriters wish to influence and persuade their readers to buy a product, or change their minds about something;

Their skills

Finally, technical communicators need good analytical skills, attention to detail and able to process large amounts of information. Copywriting needs creativity, imagination and adaptability. Both professions, despite their differences, need excellent research skills and above all, the ability to write clearly and logically.

About the author


Tania is a freelance online content writer based in Bexhill. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature.

10 April 2015.