What is the difference between a technical writer and a UI/UX writer

Content writing, copywriting, technical writing, and now, UI/UX writing – the internet is often abuzz about one or another type of writing. So let’s look at the last two and understand the difference between technical writing and UX writing.

What is technical writing?

Have you ever read a technical document? Sure, if you’ve ever built something with Lego, assembled IKEA furniture, or installed software on your computer. You must have read a set of instructions and followed the steps. The instruction manual is a type of technical document.

Adobe Photoshop manual explaining how to create an image

Technical writing – as the name suggests – involves writing for specialized fields such as engineering, information technology, and manufacturing. A technical writer is a highly skilled person who can write important documents such as user manuals, how-to guides, and training articles.

A technical writer’s main job is to translate complicated jargon into plain language for users. Therefore, writing medical procedures, legal documents, and scientific journals is also considered technical writing.

What skills do you need for technical writing?

Camera manual explaining the mode dial

Interested in becoming a technical writer? Here’s what you need to succeed:

Love for all things technical:

It would be best if you are a science and technology enthusiast willing to learn complex things.


detective skills

As a technical writer, your first job is to research the product and the user’s needs. Then you should talk to SMBs (subject matter experts), sift through all the technical stuff, and distil down to the essentials. To be successful in this role, you need to be curious and adaptable. Technical writers are also good communicators who aren’t afraid to ask questions.

Attention to detail

Technical writers use both the creative and analytical sides of their brains. Therefore, it is essential to have an overview of technical writing and not miss the finer details. In other words, your technical document should be concise while containing all the necessary information for users. A technical writer must also pay attention to the organization of the document. For example, the finished work should have a glossary, index and appendix for the benefit of users.

Ninja in plain language

How many times have you yawned while reading a legal document or felt helpless trying to find something in a textbook? Technical documents are notorious for their complexity – they are usually long, full of jargon and difficult to understand. But not anymore.

Plain language writing is in vogue today. Your document is only useful if it is concise and easy to understand for users. Additionally, a well-designed technical document should be consistent and follow an appropriate style guide.

Artist at heart

Technical documents also include illustrations and design elements as visual aids. So, as a technical writer, you will need to design documents using special software other than word processing software.

Adobe RoboHelp, FrameMaker, Madcap Flare, and Microsoft Visio are popular writing tools used in industry. Along with this, knowledge of image editing and design software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can be useful for a technical writer.

How to get started in technical writing?

If you are a specialist such as an engineer, doctor, lawyer or IT professional with excellent writing skills, it is relatively easy to become a technical writer, thanks to your expertise in the field. Here are some other paths to technical writing:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, or journalism.
  • Take a certificate course in technical writing.
  • Sharpen your STEM skills by keeping up to date with the latest industry happenings.
  • Learn relevant writing/designing software. (Try open source software to start.)
  • Write mock-up user manuals for the products you use often.
  • Do an internship and gain experience.
  • Make a portfolio for potential employers.

What is UI/UX writing?

Disney 404 error page showing Ralph

Funny 404 Page Not Found errors and friendly app notifications are great examples of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) writing. This involves writing specifically for the user interface, which can be the screens of your smart devices, computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

Writing for UI is similar to creative writing. The difference is that you’re writing microcopy: short snippets of information for web pages and app buttons. Although microcopying is generally less complex than technical writing, it is not easy to represent the voice of a brand in just a few words.

What skills do you need for UI/UX writing?

You don’t need deep technical knowledge, but you still need to be familiar with software and design programs. To be successful in a UI/UX writer role, you’ll need all of the other skills listed for a technical writer, plus the ones below:

Enjoy being in the place of others

Think of all your favorite apps and websites – they’re all built on great user experience. You value them for making your life easier. Whether it’s with easy navigation or helpful tips, or subtle reminders. Likewise, you need to empathize with end users, understand their needs and skill levels, and deliver exactly what they want.

see things differently

Your words will be the face of the brands you represent. You need to be able to provide context and prompt action with as few words as possible. At the same time, you should also aim to keep your brand voice intact. Creativity and original thinking are non-negotiable skills for a UI/UX writer.

Put a smile on the face of others

Users connect more with your product when they see a personality. They can easily understand and respond to warm and inviting messages. Authenticity is key, and metaphors and puns add flavor to your writing. Your product is more likely to succeed if it sounds human rather than robotic.

How to get into UI/UX writing?

As a potential UI/UX writer, you are a product designer or part of a larger product design team. Start with these skills.

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, or journalism.
  • Study in the psychology of marketing and the principles of user-centered design.
  • Design sample web pages with your microcopy and include them in your portfolio.

If you’re already a product designer and interested in UI writing, you can hone your writing skills with these writing courses and include UI/UX writing in your repertoire.

Choose the right career for you

Choose technical writing if you like to dig into technical stuff, translate practical details into plain language, and allow your users to learn. On the other hand, UI/UX Writing is for you if you are a creative empath with a passion for user experience and want to make a difference in their lives.


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