Understanding Different Writing Skills

Commercial writing genres vary widely. Copywriting is a broad term that includes sales writing, content writing, and marketing or advertising writing. Beyond that there are many other writing disciplines. Writers can be classified according to their points of views. In no particular order,  the 10 classifications of commercial writers include:

Business Communicators

At its best, business writing is crisp, concise, and forthright. It is usually unemotional, although it can be persuasive through the use of rational arguments. Most business writing is salted with industry jargon, both as a shortcut to communication and to provide a sense of authority or competence in the field. At its worst, business writing devolves into Orwellian “business speak” in which the use of jargon and pompous phrasing renders it nearly incomprehensible. Annual reports belong to the business writing genre.

Grant Writers

Nowadays, funding is tough to come by. Grant writers know the ins and outs of applying for both government and private grants. They know what grant givers are looking for and they know how to position a nonprofit to fit those requirements. Grant writing may be for a charitable cause, but it is a subtle form of persuasive sales writing.

Technical Writers

Technical writing is usually sparse and lean. Its goal is to communicate complex ideas efficiently, so writing is structured to set forth a logical path of concepts. This requires great skill; if you’ve followed the manufacturer’s directions for assembling furniture you’ll know what I mean. Today, software developers are injecting humor into what was once a dry field and videos are replacing written documentation. Instructional writing, particularly for online learning, is a subset of technical writing that is highly presentational and flexible.

Journalists and Editorial Writers

Print publications usually follow a style sheet or guide which defines the preferred rules of punctuation, capitalization, word usage, etc. Most U.S. newspapers follow the Associated Press Stylebook (“AP Style”).  Journalists differ from copywriters in two important ways: they strive to be grammatically correct and they’re trained to be unbiased. Today you can download AP software and it will automatically flag style errors. Most journalists are trained in the art of interviewing.

Public Relations Writers

News releases are an offshoot of journalism and follow the same inverted pyramid structure (most important information at top drilling down to less important facts). Like journalism, public relations copy answers the five Ws in the first few sentences (Who, What, Where, When, Why). Public relations includes media pitches, op-eds and advertorials, media kits, and newsletters.

Direct Response Writers

This field of writing is based upon extensive consumer research and includes both online and offline sales pitches designed to obtain a specific response. Types of direct response writing include infomercials, mail order, catalogs, and email campaigns. YouTube has become an important direct response channel, with the potential for going viral either in a positive direction or in an unflattering parody.

Content Writers

Content is needed for websites and blogs – the more the merrier in order to attract the attention of search engines. Content writing requires a knowledge of SEO (search engine optimization) including keywords, meta descriptions, and Google (and Bing) best practices. Content mills churn out low quality content for search engines, whereas quality content appeals to both human and bot readers. Websites combine content with sales copy, business copy, and catalog-type copy for shopping carts.

Script Writers

Film and video scripts, television and radio scripts, and scripts for executive speeches and presentations all fall under the category of scriptwriting. Scriptwriting also crosses over into another category. For example, many marketing copywriters do scripts for broadcast (television and radio spots).

Social Media Mavens

From wikis to Twitter, social media embraces numerous formats and rules of participation. Social media is as much about strategy as writing. It not only includes writing, it includes imagery, video and referenced or repurposed material from other sources. Social media is incredibly time-consuming but it is a useful way to pass along information and build an identity. Blogs are social media only in so far as they include the participation of readers in forums and discussions.

Marketing Copywriters

Last but not least you have the true copywriter. This writer specializes in using words to persuade or influence. Some writers are hard sell; think car salesman. Others are more subtle; think art gallery owner. Bias toward the interests of the client is an essential part of the job. Some copywriters are generalists with a broadly applicable knowledge of consumer and business-to-business marketing. Others are specialists in industries such as pharmaceuticals and insurance where marketing is subject to regulatory constraints. Either way, this type of writer has to be a master of manipulation.