Literary Writing versus Technical Writing

So you’re waist-deep in a creative writing degree, when your half-baked plan to be a literary wonder stalls. Perhaps, you should have been a technical writer. People keep saying that technical writers are always in demand. Technical writing would certainly be a more practical career path.

I’ve created this handy chart to help you determine whether a degree switch is an order. If you already have that degree, the chart will help you determine whether you should go back to school and get that technical writing degree.

Literary Writing Technical Writing
Purpose Willing suspension of disbelief Unwilling suspension of belief that the described product turned out to be a bucket of crap
Grammar and Style In the minimalist style that currently prevails, short simple sentences, direct prose. Exceptionally unexceptional. Short imperative sentences, straight-forward instruction, often abbreviated to the point of incomprehensibility.
Audience Rarely read, except by other literary fiction writers Rarely read, by anybody
Structure and Content Paragraphs and sentences in prose format. In modern fiction, reader’s imagination forced to fill in gaps left by spartan descriptions. List of equipment required, parts list, numbered steps. Reader’s imagination forced to fill gaps left by missing pieces.
Format Unless you are William Gass or think you are William Gass, format is uniform type family, size, spacing, and weight. Different fonts, headings, bullets, numbering and other formatting styles to establish hierarchy and order over unruly directions.
Professional Respect Jealousy from the 11 other successful literary writers. Dismissed by the rest of the world. Disdained by anyone that has tried to assemble an entertainment center.
Professional Prospects Scraping by on pennies earned per word penned or scraping by on a fry cook’s wages. Underpaid, underappreciated.