How to Tell a Technical Writer From a Marketing Writer

From the Editor: Summer gives us an opportunity to revisit some of our popular posts, and you can check into something you might have missed. We dug a bit further back into the archives for today’s replay, from Yehoshua Paul. This fun checklist first appeared on August 15, 2012, and even though more and more content developers seem capable of taking on tech content and marketing content, it’s still handy to know where your colleagues’ preferences lie.

The New Spy vs Spy: TechComm vs Marcom Originally created by Antonio Prohias for Mad Magazine in January, 1961 (#60)

The New Spy vs Spy: TechComm vs Marcom
Originally created by Antonio Prohias for Mad Magazine in January, 1961 (#60)

To the world outside the cubicle farm, the differences between a typical technical writer and a typical marketing writer may be hard to determine at first glance.  To people living one profession or the other, the differences are obvious.  If you or your colleagues or friends have trouble telling them apart, use this handy checklist to determine whether they should be wearing the technical writer name tag or the marketing writer name tag.  It might just save you hours of frustration and hurt feelings on all sides …

You’re a Technical Writer if…

You’re a Marketing Writer if …

Your Mom brags that you know how to write in XML. You think XML stands for Xtra Mega large.
You think that this next gen cloud based sentence is too long and confusing. You think that this absolutely amazing extra-long, state-of-the-art, best-of-breed sentence needs more adjectives.
You exist in a symbiotic relationship with an SME. You think his name is Smee, and that Captain Hook should be added to the review cycle.
You are on the path towards knowledge and understanding, and the quest for perfect punctuation. You are on the path to riches, fame, and your own reality television show.
You’ve ever dreamed of writing the manual on stabilizing a warp core. You’d rather write infomercials on getting six-pack abs for your core.
You think that 90% of the English language vocabulary is redundant. You think vocabulary and the English language are unrelated.
Your manuals are prescribed to insomniacs. The words “FDA Approved” overshadow the title.
You dream of finding your product guide on the
New York Times bestseller list.
You think you’ll find a larger audience by including kitten videos on Youtube.
Your sense of style depends entirely on MMoS, Chicago or ALA. Your sense of style is enhanced by adjectives for hair gel.
 ???  ???

We’re pretty sure there is at least one more difference between technical writers and marketing writers. Please post a comment if you have figured it out and want to share.

Author’s Note: Thank you to Rebecca Rachmany for providing me with insights into the lives of marketing writers. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with this list.


Larry Kunz

12 years ago

A technical writer sees Spy vs. Spy and wants to spell out the abbreviation (Spy versus Spy) or, better yet, replace the Latin word (Spy contending against Spy).

A marketing writer sees Spy vs. Spy and immediately starts storyboarding it into what he’s sure will be next year’s hottest Super Bowl ad.

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