How advertising is the opposite of documentation

You know that documentation and advertising are at odds, if you’ve worked in either for any length of time. Here’s a conspicuous definition of advertising that’s pretty much the opposite of what documentation does:

I want to make the public aware of something they don’t quite yet know that they know – or have them feel that way. Because they’ll move on that, do you understand? They’ll think they thought of it first. It’s about transferring information, but at the same time about a certain lack of specificity.

I found this in chapter 7 of William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition. Last I heard, the book hadn’t yet become one of the seminal texts in advertising, so take it with a grain of salt… 🙂

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3 Responses

  1. Kai, I’ve blogged that tech writing can be a powerful tool for marketing. But I think you’re right here, too. So is there a difference between marketing and advertising? Is there a kind of marketing/advertising that’s congenial to tech writing, and another that is at odds with it?

    • Indeed, Bill, I think there’s a difference between marketing and advertising:
      – Marketing matches markets with products.
      – Advertising is persuasive communication to sell a product, a service, a point of view, whatever – and frequently a marketing activity.

      That said, I find that tech writing frequently rubs shoulders with marketing, for example, when describing which market (segment) a product is aimed at.

      Advertising and tech writing don’t seem to jell as well. If you follow Gibson, ads lack the specificity that tech writing should have. Also, I firmly believe you shouldn’t sell past the close. So I go for a confident and trustworthy tone, but try to steer clear of overt advertising.

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