Formal writing with pen and paper may have died with the advent of the computer, however the craft has flourished with thanks to the computer. For many, it is less cumbersome and tedious to type communication than sit with pen in hand. This has lead to instantaneous expression on social media and blogs throughout the internet. This format has also simplified the task for professional writers. They, too, have benefited from the ease of expression and the conveyance of technical information.
It is debatable that technical writing is a form of professional writing. However, the degrees in each do differ in certain respects.
What is Professional Writing?
Professional writing most frequently used in the business world. In corporate and law offices, you will find professionals who are adept at communicating with words. People who write at this level have learned how to phrase business letters and related correspondence to convey the tone and details of the message. This could be done to educate, rebut, instruct, query, illicit a response or stimulate action.
What is Technical Writing?
One definition of technical writing is simplifying the complex. This involves taking a technical, complex subject and communication this material into terms that the intended reader can understand. What may make sense to another technician, could be incomprehensible to the non-technical reader. Therefore, you must know your audience. This affects how technical you can write your article or paper. This applies to technical issues, as well as writing letters in a corporate environment. This is one of the skills you must learn to be an effective communicator in this area.
Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) Department of English offers a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing. This degree may launch the career of aspiring journalists and related careers in the writing profession. The curriculum should satisfy students who plan to work for government agencies, private or public sector, business, financial firms, or in the legal profession.
You will also study how to design documents, write compelling business letters, create multimedia presentations, write for a website, and more.
For comparison, CMU also offers a Bachelor of Science in Technical Writing and Communication. The program prepares students for careers writing for scientific journals, technical literature, and computer-related communication.
The differences in professional and technical writing meld when offered together. For example, San Francisco State University has a Bachelor of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing. A course emphasizing the professional side is titled-Writing Practices in Professional Contexts. The class examines writing practices as they pertain to different places of work in the business world.
As noted above, the definitions reveal subtle differences and similarities. They appear to have more of the latter. Both types of writing typically convey technical information in a comprehensive and professional style. Perhaps this is why schools combine the two majors.
Courses in Professional and Technical Writing teach the research techniques, use of technology (computers), and the means of expressing the information gleaned from varying sources. Vital to professional and technical writing is using the correct grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and format. These are all important components whether you are writing for technical journals, academic journals, or newsletters.
There are programs in technical writing where you can specialize in a specific area. For example, Atlantic International University (AIU) offers a Bachelor of Arts in Technical Writing in computer-based communication. Students learn about visual and verbal communication. They also develop the technical skills required to work with intricate communication systems.
However, looking at the list of topics, there is not one course associated with computers. Instead, a short list of the courses involves technical writing, editing, technical document design, magazine writing, history of scientific and technical literature, and communication theory. The study of writing as a skill is paramount. The topic, regardless of its technicality, is secondary.
It seems that selecting either a technical writing, professional writing or a combination of both will supply the necessary skills to enter the profession of technical/professional writing. Whichever school’s curriculum most appeals to you, might be the only discernible difference.