September 09, 2012
"Technical Writing vs. Science Writing — By Kristina Bjoran
Below, excerpts from a masterful essay which appeared on July 7, 2012 on Ms. Bjoran's refreshing and informative website/blog cluster*cluck.
Among the many things I like about her style are her originality and sly wit mixed with up-front cleverness, best exemplified by her Twitter handle, @Bjoran_Identity, still the best one I have ever come across.
But I digress.
Below, excerpts from her thoughtful essay, which explores and defines an area which, for many people, didn't even seem to need clarification since they thought technical writing and science writing are the same thing. Not.
Technical Writing vs. Science Writing
Technical writing is all about documentation. Technical writers write manuals. They write white papers. They help write and edit journal papers. They often work within organizations that are producing or operating technologies of some sort.
The primary directive of a technical writer is to provide documentation of a product, technology, or service to avoid ambiguity and is as concise as humanly possible. There's little room or need in technical writing for creativity — especially if that documentation involves any legal implications at all.
[Up top and below, examples of technical writing.]
A technical writer must also learn/adopt the given form and style of writing of the industry in which she works. If she's working in a research institution and is helping create a scientific journal article on the, say, recent (possible) Higgs Boson discovery, she must write said paper in the same language and format as other journal articles in the field. She isn’t going to be creating a comic book for this purpose.
Like with any communications-related gig, technical writers must write for their audiences. They must write to serve a very specific purpose. And they tend to be heavily involved with collaboration; technical writing isn't about the author of the document — it's solely about the clear communication of a technology, service, or product.
Science writing, in an itty bitty nutshell, is writing about science for non-scientific audiences. It’s a field in which creativity makes a writer shine — sometimes more so than their ability to actually understand the science at hand (an unfortunate problem, but I'll save you the rant).
[Below, an example of science writing.]
Sometimes it's journalism, sometimes essays, sometimes documentaries. I'll stress again: it's any telling of science or technology that aims to provide understanding to the broadest of audiences. Almost always, science writing tells a story.
This may sound similar to technical writing, but it's not. Technical writing sheds truth; science writing breeds understanding. It's a fairly delicate distinction, but… not really.
September 9, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink
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