Can Technical Writing Be Creative?
When you’re writing up a technical piece, you know that you need to follow certain guidelines – formatting, style sheets, document specifications, etc. Though you might not start out with an exciting topic, can you use technical writing skills in a creative way? Here are the two sides to this endless question:
The Case for Creativity
While instructions seem bland, this doesn’t mean creativity isn’t necessary. A technical writer still needs to think of the most effective way to present information that is accessible to many levels of readers. In doing so, they need to find ways to interpret the truth and turn it into a usable and user-friendly document. It takes a certain amount of creativity to assemble a document that can work for many reading levels and experience levels. While a technical writing document may never include metaphors or literary references, a creative process is a must.
The Case Against Creativity
First of all, let’s be clear about how we’re defining creativity because that can be less than specific. Creativity in writing generally means a personal touch to the writing style, something that’s more engaging than it is informative, though it can be both. For most technical writing documents, you need to present a certain set of facts – and only the facts. Anything more can become lost in translation, especially if the piece needs to instruct on a certain topic. When your instructions are vague, your document isn’t effective. In short, you need to present only the words and phrases that support your document’s main goal – nothing more, nothing less. And this doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity.
Should Creative Writers Apply?
For those writers who are looking into technical writing as a career but who have a creative writing background, technical writing allows you to continue to engage the audience, but in a new way. It might actually improve your creative writing since you’ll be trained in how to be specific, which can be problematic when you’re working with emotional content. Maybe getting technical is just the thing your novel needs.
Do you think technical writers should show creativity in their writing? In what ways? We’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment.