Technical Writer Versus CopyWriter?

What is the difference between a tech writer and a copywriter?

A technical writers provide expository content intended to help people better understand and use technologies, processes, and products. On the other hand, a copywriter creates persuasive content that expresses a particular argument or point of view. A copywriter might write advertising collateral for a new software product to help generate sales. In contrast, the technical writer might write the user guide or online help to help the customer use the software.

How did I end up a technical writer?

My name is Michael Gorman and I am a technical writer and project manager. I am an independent business and Shauna’s colleague. We coordinate work between our specialties to help our clients out.

I attended an engineering university and earned a BSc (Physics). My university stressed communication skills for its engineers and scientists. I discovered that, contrary to the general rule, I had a fair balance of mathematical and verbal aptitudes, and so took a minor course of study in writing and technical rhetoric to complement my technical studies.


Technical Writing to …

How did I move from technical writing into project management?

Technical writers need the ability to quickly assimilate information from subject matter experts, perform independent research, and harmonise facts from multiple sources scattered across an organisation. A technical writer is one of the few people involved in development who must get the big picture, seeing a product or process as a whole. For this reason, moving into project management was a very natural transition. I applied my business analyst experience. Despite the differences in the documentation products and audience, the technical writing and people skills are basically the same.

Time-to-market is critical in software development. The companies I was working for were increasingly using my functional requirements specifications for developers. I found that writing for end users was increasingly being used as a functional requirements specification for developers (often no other detailed specifications had been written for these applications).

… Project Management

Product managers would hand my drafts over to developers, telling them “this is the spec.” I created documentation for proposed software and hardware engineering products based on research papers, theses, and dissertations. I became familiar with the system development lifecycle (SDLC) and learned to provide accurate and reliable estimates of my work, essentially managing documentation as a mini-project within the overall project.

After the dot-com bubble burst in 2002, I found myself working for a company that had acquired a number of IT companies – a telecom, a data centre, and a supply chain management system. I was asked by the CEO to write about assets he had acquired so he would understand them better. We then determined the new features customers wanted from these products and services and developed plans to implement and market them. I soon found myself coordinating teams of copywriters, content developers and marketers to move these product lines forward, writing requests-for-tender to off-shore software developers, and writing bids and proposals of our own. I had already become a de-facto project manager.