In your career as a writer you don't need to make a firm and fast decision between the two, but you do need to know the differences between expository writing vs. technical writing. These include differences of audience, voice and style. Knowing the similarities is crucial to having your work accepted, but also understood by the audience in question. Like many kinds of writing, it's important to know the rules for each, but you should remember that the stronger you get at one, the better your writing will be in the other as well.
Expository Writing vs. Technical Writing
There are some subtle, but important differences between the two types of writing. You should know these before you sit down at your keyboard and pen an article for publication.
- Voice: Expository writing has what you might call more "voice" than technical writing. You can bring more of yourself into expository writing -- your personality, your experiences, those parts of your life that are relevant to the writing. In contrast, technical writing is a very "cold" style of writing. You should not bring much of your voice into the writing at all. Instead, your writing should read like it could be written by anyone, or even by a computer. The less voice, the better.
- Style: Expository writing is about communicating moods, feelings, atmosphere and stories to your reader. Technical writing is about communicating technical concepts to your readers. This means that flowery language that may be at home in expository writing for esthetic purposes is explicitly forbidden in technical writing. The latter is, once again, a "cold" style of writing. Your writing should seem the same as if anyone had written it. Focus on getting all the smaller details into the article about what a reader needs to know about the topic rather than it sounding nice.
- Audience: Your audience for a piece of expository writing will likely be anyone interested in the topic. So if you write about a weekend of bird watching in the Catskills, your readers will be people interested in bird watching or the Catskills region of New York. Conversely, no one reads technical writing for pleasure. Your audience will be people who need to complete a task, learn a new piece of computer software or know how to do something around the house. This makes your audience far broader, as technical writing may be the only type of writing that the person reads. This is true whether or not your audience is traditional print media or online.
- Format: Expository writing is generally written like any other kind of fiction or narrative writing. You will arrange your thoughts into Technical writing, on the other hand, may contain a number of bullet points and numbered instructions.
Sitting Down to Write
Now that you know the basic differences of expository writing vs. technical writing, you can sit down to write. Make sure to follow the pointers about the differences between the two types of writing and also to know your specific audience. Ask yourself questions about what kind of publication you are writing for -- is the technical writing for an in-house journal, a manual for a product or a "How To" for a more general publication? Once you get accustomed to the conventions of each style you will have no trouble switching between the two.