Content Writing vs. Technical Writing: The Choice is Split


Technical writing is specialized !! Content writing is not. What does a technical writer do differently than a content writer?Hmmm…wait a minute, first up – what is content writing?Ahhh, that’s easy. Content writing is writing on a content – yes, that we know but what is the “content” on which a content writer writes. Well, any paragraph on a technical topic sums up to a piece of content. Yes, but if the content is on a technical topic, it qualifies itself as technical writing. So, where is content writing ?

Is “content writing” on technical content “technical writing” or “technical writing” on non-technical content “content writing”?

I often used to confuse myself while starting my career in the “technical writing” field. When I started working with my first organization, I had a clear concept of technical writing – presenting a chunk of information in a structured manner. The concept still holds true and clarifies the ambiguity between content writing and technical writing in the easiest way, I believe. But as they say, grass is always greener on the other side.

Technical Writing

Technical writing is writing about any technology, be it electronics, mechanical, heavy equipment or computer software. The first cut-up task for any technical writer is to present technical information to the end users in a lucid and comprehensive style. This is for the reason that as technical writers, sometimes, we may not know who our end-users are going to be. For example, how to operate a fully-automatic washing machine for the first time can be arduous for a layman if the user guide of the washing machine contains technical terminology. On the other hand, technical audiences can easily understand the technical jargons mentioned in the user guide. This example easily clarifies it helps a technical writer if (s)he has an idea of the audience the document is prepared for.

Content writing

Content writing is vast. Content could be written on any topic (could be on technology also) such as management, history, wildlife and so on primarily anything we can think of. One very good example of content writing is Blog. Essentially, blog writing is writing about anything you can unleash, including one’s personal experiences.  To sum up, we can say that content writing helps people to understand about the content that is being explained, it might not give clear directions as to how to use and deploy the content. The latter part is what technical writing takes care of.

Which one should you choose?

It depends !! Both, on you as well as the organization you are planning to join. Most of the semiconductor and consumer electronics firms now prefer to have engineers as technical writers or people with some technical experience. Reason is simple – candidates having an exposure to technology in their academic days are bound to understand the technical concepts in a fluidic manner, their sessions with SMEs could be more fruitful and once understood, the same can be elaborated in a technical document more easily. Now again, a person with non-technical academic background can also perform better, but we cannot debate what an organization is looking in a prospective technical writing candidate. Can we?

On the contrary, some of the firms (more of these are startups) in the last 2-3 years have their business model based around the concept of content writing. Travelling and SEO (search engine optimization) firms are raving example of these types of organizations who are promoting the concept of web content writing. These firms have all the content displayed on their respective websites which attracts the visiting users to choose their products over others.

Another pointer to choosing your career as content writer/technical writer is the scope of work you want yourselves to be associated with. Technical writing as a career is clearer on this aspect as it lists down the gamut of technical documents a technical writer would be required to develop and these are:

  • User Manual/User Guides/Reference Manuals
  • Data sheets/Product Specifications
  • Application Notes

Again, the products on which these documents are developed range from IC chips, consumer electronics, healthcare equipment, software or any other technical product(s).

For a career in content writing, sky is the limit. Depending on the business of the organization you choose to work, you could be required to work on:

  • Content development on any random topic
  • Web content writing
  • Blog writing
  • SEO
  • SMO

All these are separate fields in themselves and we can easily find organizations that are based fully on either of these business models.

The moolah

Salary is confidential, as the HR guy would sayJ. But then, one should have an idea of what financial aspirations you can have if you are choosing to become a content writer or a technical writer. Well, it all depends on the candidate, your work-experience, organization, domain of the organization and to a lesser extent, location of the organization. STC conducted the salary survey 2012 for technical communicators in India in November 2012 and the results can be had from STC India website. The survey gives a fair idea about the salary slabs of technical communicators in India, based on various factors such as work-exp., business domain, organization’s location etc.


Off late, both these career choices have started picking up in India. Though, Indian writing community is behind their counterparts in the Western world in terms of remuneration, but we are slowly catching up and yes, Indian economy has a major role to play in this turnaround. Also, while international content communication bodies such as STC (Society for Technical Communication) and Tekom (Technical Writers of Germany) are holding their annual/regional conferences here in India, things are bound to improve in content/technical writing arena in India.

Author: Ankur Srivastava, Freescale India Pvt. Ltd.

Ankur is having more than 13 years of experience in technical writing and content developments. He has primarily worked with semiconductor organizations during his career and is currently working with Freescale Semiconductor on various aspects DITA and Framemaker framework for Freescale’s documentation. His interest areas include DITA concepts and methodologies, CMS and their integration with XML tools and engines.

e-mail: ankur.srivastava@freescle.com

Linkedin: in.linkedin.com/in/ankursrivastava18/


  1. Nice post….. every content writer shd know the demand of their designation before they jump start their career in it..

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