Writing is a form of communication that utilizes language to deliver an intended message to particular readers within a context. As a form of communication both technical and literary writing consist of source, content, channel, audience and context. They differ in their characteristics and indicators of those elements in practice or operation.
Technical writers are different from poets or authors of literary works in terms of their interest, purpose and style of writing. They both have writing expertise to be appreciated by their readers, but they are limited in their style as dictated by the nature of the material they create. Technical writers also need some creativity to go with their logic and knowledge expertise about technical subjects.
Technical writing in the surface is non-fiction writing. But not all non-fiction manuscripts are considered technical documents. Literature has in its genres both fiction and non-fiction. Unlike the wide circulation of literary fiction that caters to general readers, technical writing targets specific audience. The readers of technical writing are those mostly interested on technical subjects. They include experts, professionals, field practitioners and the academics.
Technical writers generally aim to inform or persuade their readers to do some action upon reading the technical document. On the other hand, literary writers inspire and entertain with some commitment to inform or stimulate the readers’ emotions. To illustrate, an essay on climate change may stimulate and stir the audience to do some action for the environment, yet it is still literary. A technical report on climate change will have more details to inform the reader about the problem’s causes, implications and specific mitigation schemes. The same topic on climate change can be presented freely in the various genres of literary writing.
The difference between technical and literary writing lies heavily on its use of language and style of presenting information as required for specific formats. While literary writing can be informal and personal, technical writing is strict to being formal and impersonal in tone and voice. Literary writing would be prosaic or verbose, but technical writing will use the language in a straightforward manner and present the ideas with conciseness or brevity.
Literary writing is humanistic that it allows for creative expression or aesthetics. Technical writing is conventional and adheres to formats and standards in presenting empirical information. Humanism rules literary writing, while technical writing is held by the logic and determinism of scientific writing which is richly engrained in the philosophy of empiricism. Humanism is liberal which looks at life as a subject for literary writing. Empiricism is rigidly objective that it looks at things in life as objects for technical writing.
Another distinctive trait of technical writing from literary writing aside from its purpose, format, language and style, is the choice of subject. Some experts reduce the definition of technical writing to writing about technical subjects. They also think that those technical subjects are limited to science and technology. Since most technical documents that circulate are about technical topics, the idea that technical writing is about science and technology came into surface. In practice, technical writing can be about anything and everything, but it is treated and presented in a technical manner.
Technical writing can be lucrative career, especially in this era where knowledge online is highly valued as a resource. In business and in the academe technical writing is highly valued not for mere appreciation or critiquing because it allows for the continuous transmission of essential information needed in organizational decision-making processes. Literary writing is also a career and can be lucrative as well, and it is also valuable to enrich our life and culture. However, the value of technical writing manifest in many practical and functional ways, that it is indeed necessary to our daily lives.
Historically, technical writing is much younger than the literary writing which has been in the world ever since men learned to use language as symbols for meaning making. The need for technical writing has evolved in the introduction of more modern technologies from the progress that science and engineering made. Because people need to be informed and instructed in the use and manufacture of the tools that man invents, technical writing provides the means to transmit and distribute those vital knowledge. Nowadays, online technology is evidently used in delivering those technical information.