Technical Writing vs Instructional Designing – Is it really a tug of war?

tug_of_war

Technical Writing and Instructional Designing are never considered one and the same. If you go for a job interview, the hiring manager asks you for relevant experience in Instructional Desiging or Technical Writing. If you are applying for the post of a Technical Writer, only your experience in technical writing is considered. If you are applying for the post of an Instructional Designers, your experience on paper is considered and salary is fixed accordingly.

Till some years back I was also under the impression that Technical Writing and Instructional Designing are varied professions.  Today I do not think so, especially when  I have tried my hand at both of the professions.

In fact, these questions come to my mind now:

  • Why is Instructional Designing and Technical Writing treated separate?
  • Why is it debated whether Technical Writing  is better than Instructional Designing or vice versa?
  • Do these job functions require completely different skill sets?
  • Is it really difficult for a Technical Writer to get into Instructional Designing or vice versa?

Let me now try to define the role and responsibilities of a Technical Writer and an Instructional Designer and then come back to my thoughts on the questions I raised.

Technical Writer

Skills

  • Coordination skills
  • Research skills
  • Good writing skills
  • Aptitude for Technology
  • Knowledge of one or more authoring tools such as Dreamweaver, Framemaker or Robohelp
  • Presentation Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Creative Skills

Job

  • Create help manuals, installation guides and related manuals for applications or tools
  • Create marketing  materials such as white papers, blogs, video tutorials and demos
  • Tasks

    • Has to understand why people need the product or application
    • Has to understand who will be using the product and for what purpose 
    • Has to understand the technology  before writing about it
    • Has to decide what kind of information will appeal the users (in case its for evangelizing, marketing material needs to be created or if it is to help users work with the features in the product, step by step instructions are required)
    • Has to interact with SMEs (developers) to get  the right information
    • Has to structure content in a logical fashion
    • Has to follow or fix standards and guidelines for writing
    • Has to write concisely and precisely
    • Has to present information using visuals and text
    • Has to make sure information is useful to the users
    • Has to do a pilot testing and check if people are finding the information useful and the presentation appealing.

    Instructional Designer

    Job

    Create e-learning courses or any training material.

    Skills

    • Coordination Skills
    • Research Skills
    • Aptitude to quickly grasp any subject
    • Presentation skills
    • Visualization skills
    • Creative Skills
    • Analytical Skills
    • Knowledge of graphic design tools such as Photoshop, Flash  (optional)
    • Communication Skills

    Tasks

    • Has to understand why the client needs the training program or e-learning course
    • Has to understand who will be taking the course and their expectations
    • Has to understand the subject thoroughly
    • Has to decide what information to present
    • Has to decide how to present the information (visuals, audio, interactive exercises )
    • Has to interact with SMEs to get the required information
    • Has to logically structure information
    • Has to find out how to assess if learning has happened
    • Has to do pilot testing to check if the course is useful and appealing

    Whatever I listed above, gives us a clue that the basic skills and also to some extend the tasks are more or less similar for both these professions.

    So why these two professions are considered different?

    Common points to support the difference would be:

    Technical Writing

    • Is a support function
    • Requires familiarity with technology
    • Requires working with technology
    • Might be a high paying job
    • Has got to do with information architecture and design
    • Industry – software, telecom, anything that deals with applications, tools

    Instructional Designing

    • Is a main stream job
    • Requires more of creative and visual skills
    • Has got to do with course architecture and design
    • Industry – varied

    The differences I listed above are not convinving enough to makes these two professions poles apart.

     In my opinion, what differentiates these two professions is :

    • The kind of solution you come up with
    • How you  implement it

    The reason why these two professions are not considered same is also because of popular myths as follows:

    Myths about Technical Writing

    • You need not be creative
    • You need not innovate

    Myths about Instructional Designing

    • You need not understand technology
    • You need not learn any graphic design or authoring tools

    Today I am not sure if any writing professional can avoid using or knowing about technology. Technology has become part and parcel of life.

    If you do not know technology, then you are missing out on something really important.

    Also you need to be creative in any profession. Your creative skills set you apart from others, no matter what you do.

    If you ask me if  Technical Writing is better than Instructional Designing or vice versa, I will not have an answer. I have worked on e-learning courses and also user manuals. They are different solutions altogether, but the skills that was required was almost the same.

    Is the transition from Technical Writing to Instructional Designing or vice versa a challenge in itself?

    I would not say the transition will be a cakewalk. I would say it is not difficult. It is just the matter of understanding what you kind of solution you need to provide.

    I think a mix of both Technical Writing and Instructional Designing skills is definitely an advantage. You get a broader perspective about content/documentation/learning solutions.

    What is your take on this? Please share your thoughts!

     

    44 comments to Technical Writing vs Instructional Designing – Is it really a tug of war?

    • Very interesting post! Technical writing vs. Instructional designing has been an age old debate. The classification in terms of the skills and tasks brings in a lot of clarity.

      Technical writing and instructional design have a completely different history. Technical writing came about to help users understand how they need to use a particular product. Instructional design, however, is the way the instruction is designed. In my opinion, (sorry if I am offending anyone) technical writing came about due to poor usability of applications or products. If the design of an application was intuitive and thereby, usable, we wouldn’t need user manuals, guidelines, and how to do demonstrations. I feel similarly about application training. I disagree with training people on how to use an application. The application itself should be designed well in the first place.

      I feel that instructional design is a much bigger umbrella under which technical writing also falls.

    • Depending on which profession you are in, the other is always a lower-end job. IDs think tech writing is lower-end and vice versa :-) .

      I think engineering (s/w or otherwise) teams looking for tech writers expect a level of hands-on technical skill. Instructional designer do get away with depending on SMEs. Tech writers primarily work independently and so knowing tech is probably a greater need, at least that’s what the tech managers expect. IDs primarily work in teams. IDs are expected to be technology/content agnostic, supposed to be able to design for any content.

      I am not sure if ID is necessarily a mainstream job. It could well be a support role depending on the organization.

      As a recruiter/manager, I do consider tech writing experience as relevant for ID.

    • Largely, both instructional designing and technical writing entail effective written communication. So someone with good writing skills can certainly be considered for both these positions.

      The difference, as I understand, in these two roles, depends largely on the functionality and focus, the tools used, the deliverable types, etc.

      An ID’s role starts before someone uses a product, while a technical writer helps while somone is using a product. So, an ID is expected to train the audience on a product while a tech writer need not focus on the training, but rather on clear, concise, unambiguous instructions to use the product.

      The difference further lies in some decisions that an ID would use before coming up with a training course. These decisions will be based on the audience type, the business objective, the learning objectives, etc. The methodology of training, the tone of instruction, the deliverables, the tools used for development, will all change to suit the audience. The decisions made and deliverables for a technical writer may be based on other premises. However, the style/tone of writing will have to be crisp and straight-forward.

      Someone with a knowledge of both is certainly a good mix to have in an organization. There is no question of one winning over the other, as far as I have seen it. Am sure organizations will be more open to this once the differences or rather the similarities of both these talents become clear.

    • Nivedita Roychowdhury

      Hi Rupa,

      I agree with you that a Technical Writing and an ID requires similar skillsets to accomplish their jobs. I would say there is a fine line separating the two and I say this based onmy experience of work in both these fields. Instructional Designing requires a lot more creativity and the output of the design seems much more visually satisfyinmg. A Technical Writer’s job is all about structuring information and present them in proper order. But the output of teh latter’s work is not so visually creative. Hope I have been able to explainwell!!!

    • Ryan

      Having been both a technical writer and an instructional designer for a career that spans 20 years, I can say that I think the skills and challenges are complementary. I don’t think my tech writing skills nor my instructional design skills would be as good without the experience I’ve gained doing the other job.

    • abanti

      Nice article

    • Rupa,

      I am not sure if I come across a mixture of the two here in the US. I think that it is actually easier for an instructional designer to be a good technical writer than it is for a technical writer to be a good instructional designer. Tech writing, without sounding condescending, is mostly about directives and ways of using applications, hardware, courses, or other things that need a directive. Instructional design may encompass that as well as additional methods of putting together how the content is presented or approached. That said, I agree with Ryan that the skills involved in both are definitely complementary. You can’t do one without doing some of the other.

      Robert K.

    • Rupa, i closely concur with Robert. We have largely debated this topic in my team and concluded this:
      - both require the same kind of research and analysis at the beginning, like audience analysis and task analysis.
      - Both require similar skills.

      But both professions requiring similar skills, does not make them the same. So let’s not generalize by saying that.

      The difference lies in two areas, which defines a difference of mindset required while working on either of the two.
      - For TW, the audience is a user.
      - For ID, the audience is a learner.
      The difference between a user and learner is that a learner seeks formal/informal training beyond the user manuals. But a user seeks reference while using a product.

      ID aims at providing training and changing learner behavior and getting them to improve their performance on the job, use a tool correctly etc.
      TW aims at providing procedures for every feature that the product contains. That is never a goal of ID. ID focuses on the task to be done and drills down from top down. TW is not only task oriented. So infact the content of ID and TW complement each other and make information about a product complete.

      As Rob rightly says, skills for TW is infact a sub-set of ID skills. An ID spectrum of skills needs to extend to a business level at a higher point and come down to defining strategies from that level.

      Thats a long answer, but I hope I’ve made a point. it is interesting that you brought this up, and i would like to read what more people have to say! Thanks for sharing…

      Sreya

    • Would also like to add that I don’t think there is a debate of which one is ‘better’ than the other. Each one has a specific goal and purpose.

      Sreya

    • Thanks for all the comments here :)

      @ sreya – I am not saying both are one and the same. I am just trying to hint that recruiters in India consider these two professions completely different from each other though all of us agree these two professions require more or less the same skill sets.

      I agree ID and TW are of course not same, but then both these skills do help. Thats all I wanted to convey :)

      Finally there always exists a debate as to which is better. People who have worked as Instructional Designers will think a lot before getting into Technical Writing and vice versa. People have asked me which is better. So I think the debate exists.

    • First, I agree completely with your points on both ID and TW.

      Second, I agree with Manish Mohan. Even I consider both ID and TW one and the same.

      Have been in both the fields in the last 7 years. I started with ID during the start of my career and then moved to TW later.

      I had no formal training in TW. And generally this question comes up on how I moved to TW. I tell them that I started with ID and then moved to TW.

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    • Hi Rupa
      Instructional Designing and Technical Writing may be similar but there is a world of difference. The main distinguishing factor being the foundation of ID as a discipline in educational/training, instructional technology, curriculum studies and related subjects. Sadly, in India, ID is more of an “Instructional Writer”, because main chunk of ID of e-learning is outsourced and the role played by Indians in a majority of companies, is limited to writing, where “design” aspects are taken up by their counterparts abroad. Hence the scope for equating ID with IW. Of course, there are some overlaps as in an ID working on content related to tech subjects like software training or e-learning…I wish to share my conceptualisation of these roles at the following links:

      http://www.geocities.com/elearning_dossier/id_tw_cw.htm

      http://www.geocities.com/elearning_dossier/IW_and_TW.htm

    • Thanks for the useful link Madhuri :)

    • Have been following the debate and the discussion for the last few days and finally couldn’t resist jumping in with my tuppence worth. :) It’s just too exciting. Rupa, thanks a lot for starting a topic where we can all share and debate our view points…makes for such wonderful learning.

      Going backwards, I really liked the distinction that Madhuri makes between an ID and an IW. The latter’s scope of work will definitely be limited. However, for the purpose of this “debate”, I will use ID to cover the role of an IW as well.

      Lately, there has been a lot of debate/discussions/writings/musings on the role of an ID, especially given today’s rapid growth of technology. And we know that an ID now has to/needs to wear many hats. S/he has to be tech savvy to design the best solutions apart from being a PM, an occasional SME, a research student, a good communicator, a writer, visualizer, trouble shooter, and…please throw in whatever I have missed out. I am just trying to lay the groundwork for the role of an ID in today’s corporate training scenario.

      Having said that, I think, like Robert and Sreya, that TW could be considered a sub-set of ID.

      However, to debate Sreya’s point a bit, I agree that in an ideal situation the end audience for an ID is the learner. But given the corporate setting where “learning” is not the end goal, translating that to “on-the-job skills” and “performance” is, we can assume that for both ID and TW, the end audience is the “user”. They could be users of an application, of a management methodoogy, of a process, or any other information that will help them to perform better. In both cases, that is, in technical as well as non-technical training, we are seeking to change behaviour–in this case, change of behaviour could be to ensure that the application is more optimally used or that a soft-skill has been acquired and resulted in a different approach in the workplace. {Needless to say, I feel as Archana does that an application should be intuitive enough to get by w/o a user manual. Usability is woefully lacking in many cases. :) }

      Going back to my point then, and having played the role of both an ID and a TW and still alternating between the two in many cases, I do feel an ID’s role is an umbrella one that subsumes TW into its fold. It’s possible to treat both as mutually exclusive but I have met very few TWs who could think from a “learner’s/end user’s perspective” unless they also had some understanding of instructional design.

      At the end, even when I am writing instructions for a user manual, it is essential to know how to structure that, design it to make it learner/user friendly. To convey useful information about an application, just listing the process steps wouldn’t be enough; one would be required to highlight the business/other need of the application, importance of a specific step/action, point out critical steps, etc.,…all of which needs a balance between a TW and an ID…

      I will end this response with a question: I think a TW will deal only with process-related information; an ID has to design for process + all other kinds of informaiton. Am I right?

      This has become a very long response…will end now as this debate can go on…:)

    • Raju

      In ID the skills required are creative thinking, research, audience analysis, storyboarding, knowledge of tools.
      In tech writing the skills required are analytical thinking, extensive research, excellent communication, audience analysis, knowledge of tools.

      Now out of these two ID’s think since ‘creative thinking’ is involved, they are high-end professionals. But don’t they realise that there is an overkill of creative thinkers, and there are not many ‘analytical thinkers’?

      I was a copywriter before. I can be jolly well creative. Storyboarding is real fun. For me ID could have been a good choice. But I chose Tech Writing because I love technology, and also Tech Writing pays more than any writing job in the world.

      ID’s have to understand that instead of becoming arrogant on their so called claim of being ‘creatively-endowed’, they have to treat technical communication also as a part of the ‘overall learning process’.

    • I think “creativity” is highly misunderstood. My personal opinion is if you make something interesting and fun, you are creative. Therefore, regardless of whether you are and ID or TW, if you are doing your job right, you are creative. It is no piece of cake to de-jargonize content and display it in an interesting format. Also, it is not a catwalk to design traning that actually motivates the learner to learn.

      Thanks Rupa for this post! This discussion thread shows varied opinions from both perspectives and also proves just how controversial this topic is. ;)

    • I never thought this post will evoke so many responses. Thank you all for taking time to write down your responses.

      Sreya – Am sure now you agree there exists a debate when it comes to which of these professions is better ;)

      Archana – I completely agree with you when you say “if you make something interesting and fun, you are creative”. Creativity should not be assigned to a particular field.

    • Vijeesh Shankar

      Nice Article!

      I used to look down on the TW profession when i started practicing ID. But then, over a period of time I realized there are a lot common things than the uncommon. I second most of the comments made here.

      I have not worked as a TW, other than for one or two articles that I wrote for Books24x7. I understand, technical writing is very much different form that. My comments here are not after experiencing both professions. I would like to share my thoughts on why a recruiter might differentiate an ID and TW.

      Scenario 1: You are an ID and apply for the role of a TW.
      A technical writer should have the aptitude to understand technology, imbibe the learning, and continuously upgrade his/her knowledge. Should be able to produce or write manuals asap. Should be able to interact with the programmers, who understands and speaks codes better, and phrase them for a layman. While most of the above qualities would be there in an ID, the levels of these skills are not proven and tested. So if the person has TW experience, it becomes easier for the recruiter to ensure a low attrition and high productivity. Moreover, these days an ID is not expected to imbibe the learning. He/she can afford to forget the subject and move on to another one. Most IDs, these days, understand the subject matter, develop the courses and forget the subject! (I hate that!)

      Scenario 2: You are a TW and apply for the role of an ID.
      An ID is seasoned to think in a particular manner and write a material for varied audience profiles. IDs are also trained to write an ID Map, and would know how to use the taxonomies and models/theories. If the recruiter recruits a TW, they would have to train them on these. Any company would love to hire people who require less or no training.

      Otherwise, there are no reasons as to why one should differentiate. Both requires writing and comprehending skills.

    • Yamini

      Rupa, I admit that it’s an ongoing war. War of the Worlds :-) )
      Your topic made me join the community?

      Well, I have come across a similar situation- hiring managers fixing the pay scale based on the relevant experience. I often wonder how tech writing experience/skill is considered irrelevant for an ID?

      Some of my thoughts on this topic:

      - In Instructional designing, writers concentrate more on creating a visual impact and grabbing learner’s attention. I think the fact behind it is the competition that prevails. Out of N number of courses/ training material on the same topic, an ID needs to make sure the learner picks this material. An ID needs to play an effective role here. Incase of a user manual, I feel this competition doesn’t prevail (other than the competition for the product itself). If a user buys a product, he has to go with the manual that comes along with it. So the technical writers needn’t focus more in this area (this doesn’t mean creativity is not required in writing a manual).

      -In technical writing, writers focus on being more crisp and concise. As end-users we always have the tendency to flip through the pages of the manual and quickly get an answer to the problem. So in most cases analogies or examples aren’t recommended. But it’s not the case with a training material.

      - As you rightly said IDs need not understand technology is a myth. IDs get SME help when it comes to writing a technical course. But without having basic technical knowledge, it would a tough job for an ID to come with an effective learning solution.

      And, both the professions need Creativity and Innovation, which is the key to success. I feel a blend of both the skills definitely helps.

    • Rupa! Thanks for opening up this intense yet interesting debate. I think the points discussed here really needed a place where they can be expressed. I am learning a lot not only from your post but from the opinions shared here. Thanks again! It’s easy for us to get defensive of our positions especially in a world where leadership may not completely understand the importance of what we do. I do think that some companies and hiring managers misunderstand the roles and they need to be educated. I do believe that when you have a well-oiled team with an ID, Graphic Designer, Tech Writer, and a Developer you can work magic but for many of us such a “dream team” is not a reality. I’ve often wondered if companies or even organizations within companies could share people resources interchangeably… but that could very well be a logistical nightmare. I’m not sure.

    • Raju

      Hi Archana,
      If you see the posts above, the discussion has acquired this nature: Instructional Designers Vs Technical Writers rather than Instructional Design Vs Technical Writing. Let me start of with ‘comparing’ the professions and then ‘comparing’ the professionals!

      Comparing the Professions:
      Techwriting and Instructional Design cannot be compared. Stature wise Instructional Design is a vaster, more dynamic, and a more futuristic business objective/concept. ID is the ‘future’ of learning, training, organization development, and human development.
      Tech writing is more user assistance, user information. It can also be sales writing in terms of marcom. Its business objective is to provide ‘help’, ‘information’, ‘erudition’ to users.

      Comparing the professionals:
      Instructional Designers can easily become tech writers if they know, understand, and like technology, and are good at writing ‘accurately’. IDs have excellent writing abilities because the profession demands so. Tech Writing is domain dependent. In some domains like telecoms, networking, embedded systems etc you have to be ‘purely’ technical. In tech writing, the ‘writing style’ is very important. Each sentence one writes should be as perfect as a code syntax.Tech writing follows these principles for each sentence:
      - Most simple
      - Least worded
      - Most comprehensive in meaning

      Tech writers can become IDs if they have a creative bent of mind, and know how to apply learning principles into the deliverables.

      So actually even the professionals cannot be compared as well! because one can do the other, although I do believe IDs have to have more ‘principle’ knowledge.

    • One important difference that I haven’t seen mentioned is the application and understanding of adult learning theories. I was a technical writer for several years and I decided to transition to ID. One of my biggest obstacles was my lack of knowledge regarding adult learning. The main responsibility of an ID is to teach the learner. And to do this, you must know how the learner thinks, how they remember, and/or how they process information.

      Technical writers do not really need to worry about how people learn. They are simply there to relay information. It is then up to the reader to process it.

    • Raju

      Why are there less Instructional Designer jobs compared to Technical Writing jobs?

      Is it because ID is a ‘rich mans’ indulgence…or in other words, is it something that big companies do, like Infy, Accenture, TCS, Deloitte…

    • Steve Daniels

      I agree with you totally! I have been an Instructional Designer for 12 years, and have been unemployed for 10 months. While I get a few interviews for Instructional Design jobs, I am completely ignored when I apply for a Technical Writing job. Part of my job has always been creating documentation for the training modules I create. Technical Writers write guides and instruction manuals for the software and processes, but the Instructional Designers write the manuals and job aids the trainers use to do the initial teaching. Many of the people using the software and processes wouldn’t understand the instruction manuals if they were not first trained from our modules and guides. Some of the Technical Writers consult our guides to write their documents. I don’t feel there is a difference.

    • Wiseandcool

      Chill guys, whatever may come, these two professions are going to remain with their own unique individuality. Twins look alike, but they behave differently! Just because twins look similar doesnt mean anyone of the twins would be okay for a given task! A snow leopard and a leopard belong to same family but hey you cant expect them to change their habitat. May whatever be the outcome of this debate (if there is any!) the bottomline is that companies will continue to have twin A for job A and twin B for job B.

    • Kurt in USA

      This was an interesting discussion to read through. I have worked in both areas, and also worked as a researcher into ID processes and instructional writing, and believe that the two professions have much overlap but are very different. Like in a Venn Diagram, you can find a large overlap area between TW and ID but also areas of no overlap. Instructional Designers often are tasked to design classroom or computer-based training which requires the use of learning objectives, consideration of interaction and learning theory, and development of test items. This is an area where TW are usually not asked to work. Technical Writers may sometimes be asked to write instructional manuals, and they may follow a similar systematic process of interacting with SMEs and working through try-outs of their materials with revisions. This is the area of overlap. But Tech Writers also may write user documentation and reference materials and even help with business writing for their technology clients. This is usually not the domain of ID.

      What I think would be interesting though would be some type of ID certification for technical writing, that might help Instructional Designers get work as TWs, and might allow them to also improve the design of user manuals and tutorials.

    • Kurt in USA

      one more point I should add. I think it is less likely that a TW could work as an ID. I have actually seen that fail. But a TW is a very good candidate to become a good ID if they get ID training.

    • Raju

      Actually Technical Writers need to learn some instructional design. Right now, technical documentation has moved on from plain writing to content design / information development.

    • ashutosh

      Nice article, but I will have to stick to ID. No offence intended to TWs.

    • [...] ask me about the difference between Technical Writing and Instructional Design. I had written a post about this earlier and also argued that you require more or less the same kind of skills for both [...]

    • [...] ask me about the difference between Technical Writing and Instructional Design. I had written a post about this earlier and also argued that you require more or less the same kind of skills for both [...]

    • Brandy

      As someone who has a BA in Technical Writing, taught Language Arts and am now an ID for the largest automaker in the world, with experience I can say there are advantages to both professions. To transition from ID to TW or TW to ID isn’t difficult nor a stretch. There are many tools and tricks that are known only to those who practice the trade full-time so a person in transition wouldn’t be aware of them. Neither role is greater than the other, but a passion for one profession or the other usually makes all the difference in the product.

    • [...] Technical Wrting vs Instructional Designing: Is it Really a Tug of War?(from The Writers Gateway: One Stop Resource for Instructional Design) [...]

    • Wbouchard

      As both an Instructional Designer, eLearning Designer and Technical writer I would have to say the main fundamental difference between the two is that Instructional Designers spend all their time writing and developing for the adult learner who learns differently than a college student. Whereas the Technical Writer spends most of their time trying to make a complex set of instructions readable to the average user – not necessarily an adult learner.
      Other than that they are to me the same.

    • Arif Khair

      I’m taking the liberty of steering this discussion to one between ‘Creativity’ and ‘ID’ skills.
      ID skills is only about structuring content. But, where does the content come from in the first place? It requires creativity and mind you, creativity is not just aesthetics. It is about researching the core content, discerning the relevant from the irrelevant, passion for knowledge & exploration, conceptual skills, clarity of thought, groundedness. You will not need to run to SMEs if you have creative abilities. No domain, function, process, subject is rocket science.
      Unfortunately, possessing only ID skills will not help you create engaging content. It is only a miniscule part of content development. Very few understand this!!!

    • Ravish K N

      Thank you all and Rupa specially for posting this wonderful post. As a fresher I was really worried about my career path and was wondering what to choose TW or ID. Even though I wanted to become a TW, I developed interest in ID and started picking up skill required for the same. However, I was worried as many said ID is not as big (salary wise) TW and less scope in job market. Now, I feel that I will follow my passion and continue as a ID professional even though I earn significantly less salary than TW.

      I am very thankful to you guys for this great information. Thank you so much!

    • Melanie

      Hello Rupa,

      A late comment… Interesting comparison, but I really disagree with you that technical writers are not creative and don’t need to innovate!!!! I’ve been a tech. writer and editor for more than 20 years. Coming up with the best way to research, organize, and communicate technical information requires creativity (especially if you are dealing with an audience of various levels of familiarity with the product. There is also innovation – for example, starting to use a new documentation software program. If you just to the same old thing, you won’t make progress.

    • Melanie

      Steve Daniels — you said “Many of the people using the software and processes wouldn’t understand the instruction manuals if they were not first trained from our modules and guides.” That’s interesting…. In my last job (I’m looking for work now…), it was the opposite. The I.D./trainer used the technical documentation we prepared first.

      I hope you found another job a long time ago.

    • Melanie Blank

      Raju – interesting….. in the USA, at least in western NY state, where I live, it’s the opposite — there are more I.D. jobs than Tech. Writer jobs, and the I.D. jobs pay a higher salary.

    • [...]  So for those who might want to know the differences, The Writers Gateway site, in its blog “Technical Writing vs Instructional Designing – Is it really a tug of war?” explains it really [...]

    • Sherry Rooks

      Funny, I had never thought of a Technical Writer and an Instructional Designer in the same line of thought. However, now that is has been brought to my attention through your article, I can see how it could be confused. I myself am in the Graduate Program of Walden University for the Instructional Design program. I am new in the field, and there is still a great deal I do not know-but with that being said, I can already see there is a vast difference between the two.
      Technical Writers are just that-technical.
      Instructional Designers are designers of instructions.
      They are similar-yet very different.
      It would seem that technical writers write the material to be able to be used when needed. And Instructional Designers design instruction to teach a specific material at a specified timing.
      But then like I said, I am a newbie in my degree!

    • Apurva

      Hi all,
      I just graduated and now have been placed with an IT company as a instructional designer. I was clueless about ID till I read your blog and all the comments. But now I am confused if ID or TW is a good start as a career from a fresher’s perspective. Please share your thoughts on the same.

    • Harini

      Hi,

      I am currently working as a ID, but have done a course in technical writing. I definitely don’t think ID and tech writing is one and the same. But most of my clients have recently started asking for a combination of both. Clients nowadays want a manual to look more visually creative and eventually want to convert it to a e-learning course. Knowing ID as well as Tech writing is a huge advantage today. I also believe we need to have a title for job positions , such as, Information Developers (which will include both experience in ID as well as tech writing). Also these Information Developers should be paid higher than others:)

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