Technical vs. Creative Writing: Which Style Is Best to Reach Your Target Audience?
Once upon a time, in a not-so-far-away land, a valiant copywriter was on a quest to write content that could...wait, hold up. That doesn’t sound right, does it? We know there are no copywriters in fairytales and no once upon a time in business. When communicating with your target audience, there’s no time for fluff. You need to be engaging yet informative, captivating yet structured. But how do you create professional content that drives sales without boring your audience or sounding like a whimsical poem? Where does the happy medium lie?
Technical or Creative Writing? A Metaphorical Showdown
An effective professional communication plan must include both technical and creative elements. To find the right balance and connect with your audience, you must first understand the differences between these two writing forms. The examples that may pop into your mind when you hear creative writing likely include novels, memoirs, and poems. These styles were not developed with business in mind. Creative writers have free rein with imagery, length, style, and ingenuity. The rules were made to be broken, the audience to be put to the test. The purpose of this style of writing is also often for entertainment. Whereas technical, business writing has a clear purpose behind every word and a direct audience in mind.
Technical writing is more set on documenting processes and educating the reader. This style is ideal for writing white papers, brochures, user manuals, and case studies, to name a few. A technical writer must have a deep understanding of the topic or product they are writing about. After all, it’s their job to educate an audience who may know very little about the subject. The content can still be descriptive, but these descriptions must be concise, factual, and easy-to-digest.
Now, can creative writing exist in a business context? Absolutely! The principles of creative writing, including humor, originality, and artisticness, can also be used in business, where your goal is to inform and educate. Take, for example, copywriting. Whether writing a blog post, a brochure, or an ebook, professional copywriters always write with a purpose, never just for entertainment. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t use creativity in their writing. Take a look at one of your competitor’s social media posts or one of their web pages (which are both examples of professional copywriting). You will likely find creative influences in the content, including, for example, clever word choice or a conversational tone. This creative approach to technical copywriting helps make your words more compelling. If your target audience is engaged and inspired by your business communication, your popularity as a company will increase twofold.
Imagine you are creating an email campaign to encourage recipients to sign up for a free trial of an app. A straight-forward, technical writing approach to this email may look like this:
While this gives potential users the most basic information about how long the trial is and how to sign up, it does nothing to excite or educate the recipients about what makes the product unique and why they should take advantage of this free trial. Consider this: 33% of email recipients open an email if it has a catchy (or creative) subject line. “14-Day Free Trial” tells the recipient exactly what the email is about but does nothing to encourage them to actually open the email. Now take a look at this more creative approach:
Add simple details like the recipient’s name in the subject line, more engaging verbiage in the copy, a strategically placed call to action, and other details like user reviews and videos. This will not only encourage your target audience to open your email but act on it too.
So, to gain the best results, your company’s professional communication should combine both creative and technical writing styles. The common thread between them — any piece your company produces should be focused on a measurable end goal. Every word should be deliberate, from the call to action on your web pages to the tone of your blog posts. To ensure that your business communication isn’t one-note and ineffective, you must find the perfect balance between creative and technical writing to educate, convert, and engage your target audience long-term. But how do you know when you should be creative in your professional content and when you should not?
The Right Content at The Right Time
The amount of stylistic freedom your company has depends on the demographic and industries that you are writing for. For many, if done tactfully and with intent, inserting a little imagination into your content plan will set you apart from the competition. Don’t forget that you are still trying to reach a living, thinking person who appreciates a bit of creativity. Now, that doesn’t mean you should pump a ton of metaphors into a marketing brochure or use iambic pentameter for a blog post. Instead, remember that contextual creativity helps reach your target audience in a natural, alluring way.
Take, for example, a software manual, where there is little room for any creativity or flair. Because it is technical writing, the word choice, sentence structure, and length should be consistent and precise throughout the whole document. This approach helps make the detail-heavy content easier to digest. On the other hand, for Google Ads campaigns targeting millennials, using witty headlines that speak to the target demographic in their own language will help boost your click rate. This is the right way to use creative writing in the professional realm. So, feel free to be inventive, provided it serves your content’s audience and greater purpose.
Learn the Rules, Then Flip the Script
To make your professional communication more effective, you must marry the best of both the creative and technical worlds. Once your team has the rules of technical writing down (give direction, keep it short, concise, and professional), you can start having a little fun. A great example of this is RXBAR, a health food company founded by two friends from Chicago. They wanted their brand to be all about transparency and vulnerability, so they designed their brand image, down to their packaging, to demonstrate exactly that. Their packaging directly lists every ingredient that is in their health bars, all the way to the last ingredient of: “No B.S.”
There is no technical writing handbook that would ever advise using "B.S." in your professional business writing, especially on the packaging of all places. But here, it not only works, but it also helps the audience understand the company's mission. It does exactly what good professional writing should do: it helps their product truly stand out while also defining what the brand is all about. When figuring out just how creative to be, consider what feels natural, like RXBAR did. If it feels like you are pushing too hard or that your creativity is taking away from the piece, remove it! No use for creativity for its own sake.
Putting Pen to Paper
When producing effective yet entertaining professional communication, you must strike a balance between being creative and informative. To ensure that you have fully-optimized, effective communication, you should hire trained copywriters who know the rules and know when to break (or bend them). As long as any creativity that they include in a professional piece is done with intent, you will reach the right people with the right content. And for this tale, that’s about as close as you can get to a happily ever after.