65.3, August 2018

Recent & Relevant

Lyn Gattis, Editor

The following articles on technical communication have appeared recently in other journals. The abstracts are prepared by volunteer journal monitors. If you would like to contribute, contact Lyn Gattis at LynGattis@MissouriState.edu.

“Recent & Relevant” does not supply copies of cited articles. However, most publishers supply reprints, tear sheets, or copies at nominal cost. Lists of publishers’ addresses, covering nearly all the articles we have cited, appear in Ulrich’s international periodicals directory.


Distributed cognition and embodiment in text planning: A situated study of collaborative writing in the workplace

Clayson, A. (2018). Written Communication, 35(2), 155–181. doi: 10.1177/0741088317753348

“Through a study of collaborative writing at a student advocacy nonprofit, this article explores how writers distribute their text planning across tools, artifacts, and gestures, with a particular focus on how embodied representations of texts are present in text planning. Findings indicate that these and other representations generated by the writers move through a spectrum of durability, from provisional to more persistent representations. The author argues that these findings offer useful insights into the relationships among distributed cognition, materiality, embodiment, and text planning and have implications for practitioners and students of writing. Additionally, the author recommends that scholars further investigate the ways in which embodied representations of texts are generated through lived experiences with the materials of writing.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Change but no climate change: Discourses of climate change in corporate social responsibility reporting in the oil industry

Jaworska, S. (2018). International Journal of Business Communication, 55(2), 194–219. doi: 10.1177/2329488417753951

“Using corpus-linguistic tools and methods, this article investigates the discourses of climate change in corporate social responsibility and environmental reports produced by major oil companies from 2000 to 2013. It focuses on the frequency of key references to climatic changes and examines in detail discourses surrounding the most frequently used term ‘climate change.’ The analysis points to shifting patterns in the ways in which climate change has been discursively constructed in the studied sample. Whereas in the mid-2000s, it was seen as a phenomenon that something could be done about, in recent years, the corporate discourse has increasingly emphasized the notion of risk portraying climate change as an unpredictable agent. A proactive stance signaled by the use of force metaphors is offset by a distancing strategy often indicated through the use of hedging devices and ‘relocation’ of climate change to the future and other stakeholders. In doing so, the discourse obscures the sector’s large contribution to environmental degradation and ‘grooms’ the public perception to believe that the industry actively engages in climate change mitigation. At the methodological level, this study shows how a combination of quantitative corpus-linguistic and qualitative discourse-analytical techniques can offer insights into the existence of salient discursive patterns and contribute to a better understanding of the role of language in performing ideological work in corporate communications.”

Katherine Wertz

Disclosing principles of IR [investor relations] communication: Rhetorical moves for constructing transparency

Koskela, M. (2018). International Journal of Business Communication, 55(2), 164–193. doi: 10.1177/2329488417735645

“A functioning financial market requires transparency of listed companies. Transparency is a communicative practice ensuring that stakeholders have all relevant information about a company to make informed financial decisions. This article discusses how transparency is communicated through a genre specifically designed for this purpose, disclosure policy. A disclosure policy is a communication strategy document in which companies define their investor relations communication principles and thereby deliver a transparent image of themselves. The data for this study consist of 13 disclosure policy documents published in English on investor relations websites of listed companies. Methodologically the study combines a rhetorical moves analysis with a semantic approach to intertextuality. The results of the analysis indicate that following a consistent genre pattern enables companies to directly address requirements of authorities but also leaves room for company-specific characterizations. In order to portray a rhetorically convincing image, transparency characterizations need to reflect the company strategy.”

Katherine Wertz

How text presentation and financial literacy affect pension communication success

Nell, L., Lentz, L., & Maat, H. P. (2018). International Journal of Business Communication, 55(2), 135–163. doi: 10.1177/2329488417748298

“This study examined the effects of (a) text presentation and (b) prior knowledge and language skill on finding information in financial documents. First, the participants filled out tests that measured their levels of vocabulary, reading skill, domain knowledge, and topic knowledge. Subsequently, they read an on-screen text on pension information in either a linear structure (‘nonlayered’) or a hypertext structure (‘layered’). Readers’ performance was measured by verbal scenario questions. No difference was found for text presentation. Language skill and domain knowledge were both important predictors for finding, whereas topic knowledge was not associated with readers’ performance at all. When differentiating between text presentation conditions, [the authors] found that domain knowledge only plays a role in the nonlayered condition, not in the layered condition. These results indicate that the set of skills needed to successfully read a document varies with both type of task and type of reading, confirming prior research.”

Katherine Wertz

JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and the financial crisis of 2008

Hearit, L. (2018). International Journal of Business Communication, 55(2), 237–260. doi: 10.1177/2329488417753952

“Following the financial crisis of 2008, major banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo attempted to rebuild stakeholder and shareholder trust in the American financial system. Through a discourse analysis of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo’s legitimation efforts, this study provides additional research on the practice of strategic financial communication. Specifically, this article found how JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo responded to questions about their actional and institutional legitimacy in their practice of issue management was echoed within each bank’s press coverage and organizational discourse. Yet this study also found that banks that were better able to directly respond to media critique more effectively navigated the financial crisis. This study underscores the importance of careful communication in managing shareholder and stakeholder concerns and rebuilding public trust in their corporations.”

Katherine Wertz

The simple truth: Ambiguity works. Discursive strategies by Swedish public authorities during the 2008 financial crisis

Johansson, C., & Nord, L. (2018). International Journal of Business Communication, 55(2), 220–236. doi: 10.1177/2329488417748298

“The global financial crisis that broke out in 2008 affected a large number of governmental, public, and private organizations. This article explores communication of public authorities in Sweden during the crisis, and highlights their discursive strategies between 2008 and 2010, analyzing press releases. As an analytical point of departure, complexity theory is combined with theory on strategic ambiguity in order to analyze which communication strategies were employed by the authorities. Results show that the public authorities embraced complexity and ambiguity differently in their communication, and consequences of their different approaches are discussed. The study also confirms that the different roles of significant actors during a crisis influence the selection of possible message strategies.”

Katherine Wertz


Raman identification of cuneiform tablet pigments: Emphasis and colour technology in ancient Mesopotamian mid-third millennium

Chiriu, D., Ricci, P. C., Carbonaro, C. M., Nadali, D., Polcaro, A., & Collins, P. (2017). Heliyon, 3(3), 786–795. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2017.e00272

“Cuneiform tablets tell the life and culture of Sumerian people in a sort of black and white tale because of the binary engraving technique. A leading question arises: Did Mesopotamian people apply some kind of colour to decorate their tablets or to put emphasis on selected words? Some administrative and literary Sumerian cuneiform tablets of mid-third Millennium B.C. from the site of Kish (central Mesopotamia, modern Iraq) were dug up in twentieth-century and stored at the Ashmolean Museum of the Oxford University. Non-destructive micro-Raman spectroscopy is a powerful technique to detect the presence of residual pigments eventually applied to the engraving signs. Yellow, orange, red and white pigments have been detected and a possible identification has been proposed in this work. In particular yellow pigments are identified as Crocoite (PbCrO4), Lead stannate (Pb2SnO4); red pigments—hematite (Fe2O3) and cuprite (Cu2O); White pigments—Lead carbonate (PbCO3), calcium phosphate (Ca3(PO4)2), titanium dioxide (TiO2), gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O); orange pigment a composition of red and yellow compounds. These results suggest that Sumerian people invented a new editorial style, to overcome the binary logic of engraving process and catch the reader’s eye by decorating cuneiform tablets. Finally, the coloured rendering of the tablet in their original view is proposed.”

Edward A. Malone

Toward a topos of visual rhetoric: Teaching aesthetics through color and typography

Welhausen, C. A. (2018). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 48(2), 132–150. doi: 10.1177/0047281616646752

“This article proposes a heuristic that teachers and students can use together to create a vocabulary for discussing the aesthetic aspects of color and typography in document design work. By using this framework, teachers and students can generate a collection of shared visual topoi or commonplaces for describing the aesthetic value of color and typography that they can then draw from to inform visual analysis and production work.”

Anita Ford


Building a scholarly multimedia publishing infrastructure

Ball, C. E. (2017). Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 48(2), 99–115. doi: 10.3138/jsp.48.2.99

“This article provides a preview of Vega, a new scholarly publishing platform in development (set to be released in late 2017). With twenty-plus years of experience publishing scholarly multimedia in the journal Kairos, the author summarizes editorial practices for multimedia content in terms of the scholarly, social, and technical infrastructures required to sustain digital media-rich publishing venues. Vega is an outgrowth of those practices that aims to provide a stable platform for training editors, publishers, and authors in how to create, edit, and maintain the scholarly record.”

Edward A. Malone

Evaluating manuscripts for copy-editing: The view from a managing editor

McCarthy, J. (2017). Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 48(3), 161–167. doi: 10.3138/jsp.48.3.161

“To evaluate the editing needs of a manuscript in order to estimate the hours required to copy-edit it, a managing editor relies heavily on information about the nature and size of the book’s audience; on the quality of the writing, including clarity, spelling and punctuation, grammar, and consistency of hyphenation and capitalization; on apparent factual accuracy; and on the extent of the scholarly apparatus as well as tables and figures. Acquisitions editors can play a key role in determining the level of copy-editing a manuscript receives through the information they share about the author and the manuscript.”

Edward A. Malone

Speaking of editing: The nomenclature of copy-editing

Fretz, M. J. H. (2017). Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 48(4), 243–267. doi: 10.3138/jsp.48.4.243

“Publishing professionals concern themselves with the textual and graphic details of the content they publish. Editors, specifically, are responsible for checking and correcting the details of language, style, format, and typography. As precise as editors are paid to be, the nomenclature employed by editing professionals to identify the type of editing required by manuscripts, to communicate about editorial activity, and to evaluate editorial work is, ironically, imprecise. This article identifies the nomenclature used in the publishing industry, the scholarly publishing sector specifically, to label, describe, and discuss editorial activity. It provides an overview of terminology and definitions garnered from a review of literature on the subject of editing. It also presents the results of an original survey of editorial professionals, conducted online, which solicited responses to questions about terms and valuations in the practice of copy-editing. Based on these data, the article draws conclusions and makes suggestions about potential courses of action for standardizing editorial nomenclature in the publishing industry.”

Edward A. Malone


Can workplaces, classrooms, and pedagogies be disabling? [Introduction to special issue]

Oswal, S. K. (ed). (2018). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 3–19. doi: 10.1177/2329490618765434

In the preamble to this special issue, Oswal lays out both the history and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. “[T]he readers will find a variety of topics stacked under the intersecting category of disability and accessibility within the covers of this special issue. . . . [T]he articles presented here speak to the workplace context—whether it is the blind workers’ place of service or the university as a place of work and professional practice. . . . This issue calls upon business and professional communication faculty to employ their management and leadership skills through inclusive curricula to foreground, to demystify, and to integrate accessibility in corporate cultures and bring about organizational change through accessibility-centered business and professional communication training to students while keeping up with the worldwide demographic, legal, and social developments surrounding disability.” The special issue is intended “to disturb the historic invisibility of the disabled subject—both human and communicational.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Exploring transformative usability in the business and professional writing classroom

Nielsen, D. (2018). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 66–84. doi: 10.1177/2329490617748690

“This article addresses the importance of teaching transformative usability and accessibility concepts through the lens of disability studies in general business and professional communication courses. It argues that when students learn to analyze audiences, include diverse users, and foresee accessibility before the final draft because they practice user-centered design, their documents become more accessible for all users and situations. It presents a four-unit course plan that integrates disability studies and usability, including legal requirements. The unit plan advocates considering disability and diverse users and uses at the beginning of the design process.” The author provided a breakdown of the four units with the assignments for each unit.

Diana Fox Bentele

Foregrounding accessibility through (inclusive) universal design in professional communication curricula

Hitt, A. (2018). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 52–65. doi: 10.1177/2329490617739884

“Incorporating universal design (UD) both as a topic of discussion and as a pedagogical approach allows business and professional communication instructors to foreground accessibility in ways that acknowledge the rhetorical situatedness of accessibility. This article offers UD strategies that reimagine accessibility not just as a requirement that accommodates users but as an opportunity to create a rich rhetorical user experience for diverse populations. To illustrate how accessibility can be foregrounded in professional communication curricula, this article details the development of an information design course focused on usability and accessibility.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Harry Potter and the first order of business: Using simulation to teach social justice and disability ethics in business communication

Wheeler, S. K. (2018). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 85–99. doi: 10.1177/2329490617748691

“Despite the excellent work by scholars who invite us to consider disability, social justice, and business and professional communication pedagogy, little attention has been given to what a disability- and social-justice-centered business and professional communication course might look like in design and implementation. This case study offers an example of a simulation based within the Harry Potter universe that emphasizes the ways disability advocacy and civic engagement manifest themselves in foundational business writing theories and practices. This simulation enabled students to engage with social justice issues by understanding access as an essential part of business and professional communication.” The author provided a 16-week, 8-unit course outline with a schedule of deliverables.

Diana Fox Bentele

Unheard complaints: Integrating captioning into business and professional communication presentations

Clegg, G. M. (2018). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 100–122. doi: 10.1177/2329490617748710

“This article explores pedagogical frameworks closely associated with d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons from the perspective of a disabled instructor to increase student awareness of the needs of diverse audiences they will encounter in the workforce. The author argues that students and instructors can use captioning theory to strategize one of the harder business communication genres, the presentation, for d/Deaf audiences to make communication more accessible. By raising critical awareness of the limits of technology, current trends in pedagogy, and disability, this article seeks to further the conversation about providing accessibility for disabled users in the classroom.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Plain language to minimize cognitive load: A social justice perspective

Cheung, I. W. (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 448–457. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2759639

“This tutorial explores ethical implications of cognitive load theory and intersectional theory on technical and professional communication, and proposes plain language as an ethical imperative to redress social inequities. When the cognitive load of a learning task is too high and overwhelms working memory, learning is impaired. The greater stress and mental burden that marginalized populations experience can leave less working memory available for reading and learning. Using plain language to reduce cognitive load can be considered a political act that increases marginalized populations’ opportunities to understand.” The tutorial suggests these key lessons: “1. Consider whether marginalized populations are part of your audience. 2. Using personas to represent those populations, audit their mental burden to exercise cognitive empathy. 3. Consider reducing cognitive load via plain language an ethical imperative. Assessing the presence and absence of specific marginalized groups is iterative and takes practice, but developing plain-language communications that accommodate these audiences reduces cognitive load for all readers. And although personas are useful for developing cognitive empathy, nothing replaces user testing in determining your communication’s effectiveness.”

Lyn Gattis

The social justice impact of plain language: A critical approach to plain-language analysis

Jones, N. N., & Williams, M. F. (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 412–429. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2762964

“This study investigates how plain language, examined from a social justice perspective, is implemented in mortgage documents and what the implications are for African-American homebuyers. . . . [The authors] examine plain language from a social-justice stance by turning a more critical eye toward how and why plain-language guidelines are implemented. [The] study focused on the initial disclosure statements for adjustable-rate mortgages. [The authors] paired critical discourse analysis with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Plain English Handbook guidelines for disclosure statements to analyze three disclosure statements. [The authors] found that, generally speaking, each of the three disclosure statements effectively adhered to plain-language recommendations. However, the idea that plain language increases accessibility, reader comprehension, and usability is complicated, and the accessibility and usability of each document varied. [The authors] advocate for a human-centered approach that explores ways that plain-language guidelines can be applied along with a critical focus on amplifying agency and reducing inequity.”

Lyn Gattis

Health communication

Use of plain-language guidelines to promote health literacy

Grene, M., Cleary, Y., & Marcus-Quinn, A. (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 384–400. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2761578

“Studies by the American Institute of Medicine and the European Health Literacy Survey describe considerable levels of either inadequate or problematic health literacy. This health literacy problem is intensified when frontline healthcare practitioners must rely on printed education materials to compensate for the lack of time to instruct patients about their health management. Applying plain-language guidelines to health promotion materials may increase their effectiveness, particularly for patients with low health literacy.” Review and analysis of “scholarly, evidence-based studies that included reference to the use of plain-language guidelines . . . identified 13 articles that explored the use of plain-language guidelines in health literacy promotion. Analysis of these articles demonstrates that plain-language guidelines could play a strategic role in educating patients. Use of plain language could help healthcare practitioners to communicate critical and sometimes very complex health information effectively.”

Lyn Gattis

Information management

Automated classification of content components in technical communication

Oevermann, J., & Ziegler, W. (2018). Computational Intelligence, 34(1), 30–48. doi: 10.1111/coin.12157

“Automated classification is usually not adjusted to specialized domains due to a lack of suitable data collections and insufficient characterization of the domain-specific content and its effect on the classification process. This work describes an approach for the automated multiclass classification of content components used in technical communication based on a vector space model. [The authors] show that differences in the form and substance of content components require an adaption of document-based classification methods and validate [their] assumptions with multiple real-world data sets in 2 languages. As a result, [the authors] propose general adaptions on feature selection and token weighting, as well as new ideas for the measurement of classifier confidence and the semantic weighting of XML-based training data. [They] introduce several potential applications of [their] method and provide prototypical implementation. [Their] contribution beyond the state of the art is a dedicated procedure model for the automated classification of content components in technical communication, which outperforms current document-centered or domain-agnostic approaches.”

Edward A. Malone


Flowcharts, swimlanes, and timelines: Alternatives to prose in communicating legal–bureaucratic instructions to civil servants

Passera, S. (2018). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 32(2), 229–272. doi: 10.1177/1050651917746459

“Government-published documents often fail to communicate clearly—not only with citizens but also with professional readers such as civil servants. Visual or multimodal approaches remain rare. This is a particularly unhelpful practice in regard to legal-bureaucratic instructions (e.g., contracts, rules, policies), which exist to guide compliant behavior. This study explores the development and experimental evaluation of a diagrammatic guide of terms and conditions for public procurement that is addressed to civil servants. Results show that the diagrammatic format, compared to prose, significantly enhances comprehension accuracy and answering speed and is perceived as more appealing and functional by users.”

Sean C. Herring

Intercultural issues

Ethnic/diasporic/transnational: The rise and fall of ImaginAsian TV

Han, B. (2018). Television & New Media, 19(3), 274–290. doi: 10.1177/1527476417704705

“This article examines the rise and fall of ImaginAsian TV to illustrate the travails of imagining a broadcast community of Asian Americans and the potential effect this has on the politics of representation. Drawing on institutional politics, media history, and oral interviews, the article analyzes the problematic conceptualization of a homogeneous Asian American audience, and further explicates how the usage of the English language in ImaginAsian’s programming strategy, despite its syndicated programs in different Asian languages, could not accommodate the disparate but interconnected cultural logics of transnationalism, race and ethnicity, and diaspora which structure Asian and Asian American identities.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Insider audiences and plain-language revision: A city charter case study

Dreher, K. (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 430–477. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2759578

“In policy and law contexts, plain-language practice and research tend to focus on the benefits of plain language for specific nonexpert or public audiences. However, as plain-language use has proliferated, documents targeted for revision increasingly include those with insider and expert primary audiences. This study investigates the effects of plain-language revision on insider audiences following the adoption of a revised city charter in a Midwestern US city. . . . Plain language—a strategy that writers use to make texts more effective for users—is historically and ideologically associated with helping public or vulnerable audiences to access complex information. This core priority toward public or nonexpert audiences is important; however, it has also resulted in a limited understanding of the full scope of plain-language audiences, especially in contexts where insider and expert audiences are primary users. This study, informed by genre theory, is a qualitative case study in which textual artifacts and interview data were collected and analyzed using a two-cycle qualitative coding process. The analysis showed many effects, nearly all positive, for insiders and experts,” including “improved navigation, organization, and processes, through the concept of interplay between the unrevised and revised charters.”

Lyn Gattis

Plain language in the twenty-first century: Introduction [special issue]

Matveeva, N., Moosally, M., & Willerton, R. (eds). (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 336–342. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2759619

“This special issue offers the results of recent case studies and surveys, theoretical justifications, and historical overviews that explore the use of plain language in government and medical institutions, readers’ preferences concerning plain style, and the social implications of plain-language use. These articles extend the literature on plain language in new directions and could be useful in a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on plain language, medical and health communication, government and business communication, ethics, and social justice. . . . The articles in this special issue offer some new discussion topics and raise important questions about the place and impact of the plain-language movement and about the role of plain-language principles in professional and technical communication.”

Lyn Gattis

Plain language in the US gains momentum: 1940–2015

Schriver, K. (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 343–383. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2765118

“Plain language evolved over the past 75 years from a sentence-based activity focused on readability of paper documents to a whole-text-based activity, emphasizing evidence-based principles of writing and visual design for paper, multimedia, and electronic artifacts.” This article compiles and synthesizes the history of plain-language development. “Between 1940 and 1970, plain language focused mainly on readability. During the 1970s, some practitioners began to employ usability testing. By the mid-1980s, there was a widespread sense that plain-language advocates had shifted priorities from readability to usability. Between 1980 and 2000, advocates broadened their vision beyond word- and sentence-level concerns to include discourse-level issues, information design, and accessibility. Between 2000 and 2015, advocates continued to worry over their old questions (‘Can people understand and use the content?’), but also asked, ‘Will people believe the content? Do they trust the message?’ By 2015, plain language had gained significant momentum in business, government, medicine, and education. . . . Plain-language practitioners expanded their concerns from how people understand the content—the usability and accessibility of the content—to whether people trust the content.” The article includes a timeline of plain-language development during this period.

Lyn Gattis

Plain-style preferences of US professionals

Campbell, K. S., Amare, N., Kane, E., Manning, A. D., & Naidoo, J. S. (2017). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 60(4), 401–411. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2017.2759621

“Although plain language is almost universally promoted by teachers of professional writing, editors, and communication professionals, some have argued that the effects of and preferences for plain style in written messages differ among groups of individuals.” This study used an online survey instrument to investigate “preferences for two major style categories (conciseness and word choice)” among 614 working adults in the US. . . . Statistical analysis of responses indicated “an overwhelming preference for plain style among US professionals who are native speakers of English. Reader preferences were stronger for elements associated with word choice than with conciseness. Those with lower education levels and blue-collar occupations had lower preferences for plain style.” The authors note two limitations of the study: (1) They “investigated only two aspects of plain style rather than the full range of elements that make up plain language” and (2) the survey instrument “presented readers with an artificial rather than an authentic reading experience. Future research may investigate the role of personality on stylistic preferences and the attributions readers make about writers based on their style.”

Lyn Gattis

Professional issues

Reimagining work: Normative commonplaces and their effects on accessibility in workplaces

Konrad, A. (2018). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 81(1), 123–141. doi: 10.1177/2329490617752577

“This article investigates how normative attitudes about work construct barriers to workers who are blind and visually impaired. The researcher collected narratives about rhetorical experiences from blind and visually impaired participants in the United States and analyzed accounts of these workplace interactions to identify rhetorical commonplaces that drive arguments about work. These commonplaces reveal the ableist assumptions that construct access barriers and constrain rhetorical possibilities for disabled workers’ self-advocacy. The author proposes that business and professional communication students and practitioners should engage in collaborative approaches to flexible thinking and leadership necessary for reimagining work in ways that promote accessibility.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Science writing

Better science through rhetoric: A new model and pilot program for training graduate student science writers

Gottschalk Druschke, C., Reynolds, N., Morton-Aiken, J., Lofgren, I. E., Karraker, N. E., & McWilliams, S. R. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(2), 175–190.

doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1425735

“Graduate programs in the sciences offer minimal support for writing, yet there is an increasing need for scientists to engage with the public and policy makers. To address this need, the authors describe an innovative, cross-disciplinary, National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded training program in rhetoric and writing for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduate students and faculty at the University of Rhode Island. The program offers a theory-driven, flexible, scalable model that could be adopted in a variety of institutional contexts.”

Rhonda Stanton


Terminal node problems: ANT 2.0 and prescription drug labels

Kessler, M. M., & Graham, S. S. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(2), 121–136. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1425482

“This article examines prescription drug labels (PDLs) via an actor-network theory analysis to demonstrate current challenges with technical communication (TC) scholars’ appropriation of actor-network theory. The authors demonstrate that the complexity of the PDL network requires a more nuanced deployment of actor-network theory notions of durability and synchronicity. Specifically, the authors suggest that diachronic approaches to networks enable a more comprehensive understanding in ways that synchronic approaches cannot.”

Rhonda Stanton

Understanding communication of sustainability reporting: Application of symbolic convergence theory (SCT)

Hossain, M., Islam, M. T., Momin, M. A., Nahar, S., & Alam, M. S. (2018). Journal of Business Ethics, 1–24. doi: 10.1007/s10551-018-3874-6

“The purpose of this paper is to investigate the nature of rhetoric and rhetorical strategies that are implicit in the standalone sustainability reporting of the top 24 companies of the Fortune 500 Global. [The authors] adopt Bormann’s . . . SCT framework to study the rhetorical situation and how corporate sustainability reporting (CSR) messages can be communicated to the audience (public). The SCT concepts in the sustainability reporting’s communication are subject to different types of legitimacy strategies that are used by corporations as a validity and legitimacy claim in the reports. A content analysis has been conducted and structural coding schemes have been developed based on the literature. The schemes are applied to the SCT model which recognizes the symbolic convergent processes of fantasy among communicators in a Society. The study reveals that most of the sample companies communicate fantasy type and rhetorical vision in their corporate sustainability reporting. However, the disclosure or messages are different across locations and other taxonomies of the SCT framework. This study contributes to the current CSR literature about how symbolic or fantasy understandings can be interpreted by the users. It also discusses the persuasion styles that are adopted by the companies for communication purposes. This study is the theoretical extension of the SCT. Researchers may be interested in further investigating other online communication paths, such as human rights reports and director’s reports.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


The art of selling-without-selling: Understanding the genre ecologies of content marketing

Wall, A., & Spinuzzi, C. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(2), 137–160. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1425483

“Content marketing involves creating content in genres that readers find useful. These genres individually do not persuade their readers to buy a given product and may not even mention the product or service being marketed. But collectively, they are designed to lead their readers to a purchase decision, that is, they sell without selling. The authors examine how content marketers strategically deploy these ecologies of genres.”

Rhonda Stanton

Mapping use, storytelling, and experience design: User-network tracking as a component of usability and sustainability

Bacha, J. A. (2018). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 32(2), 198–228. doi: 10.1177/1050651917746708

“Framed around three different antenarratives about system development, this article builds on established user-centered theories to present a mixed-method approach to user experience (UX) design. By combining network theory, storytelling, and process mapping, this article provides a practical method of including users’ experiences during the predevelopment stages of building workplace-specific digital technologies. Specifically, this article argues for the collection of user-generated antenarratives as the first step in UX product development and demonstrates how to use those experience-based stories.”

Sean C. Herring

Poor poor dumb mouths, and bid them speak for me: Theorizing the use of personas in practice

Rose, E. J., & Tenenberg, J. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(2), 161–174. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2017.1386005

“Although personas are commonly used to represent users in design, their rhetorical function has been little explored. In this article, the authors theorize personas’ rhetorical function as ventriloquization, where one person speaks with the voice of another. In ventriloquizing users through personas, practitioners speak for users, while scripting personas to speak for their creators: Each magnifies the others’ voice. Personas represent a strategic rhetorical gambit for gaining legitimacy within organizations and technological decision-making processes.”

Rhonda Stanton

Things that squeak and make you feel bad: Building scalable user experiences programs for space assessment

Kuglitsch, R., & Couture, J. (2018). Weave, 1(8). doi: 10.3998/weave.12535642.0001.801

This article addresses the problems of beginning a user experience (UX) program in the context of library systems, including limitations of staff and time, and of getting buy-in from all stakeholders to meet users’ needs. “This article suggests a process for creating a user experience (UX) assessment of space program that requires limited resources and minimal prior UX experience. By beginning with small scale methods, like comment boxes and easel prompts, librarians can overturn false assumptions about user behaviors, ground deeper investigations such as focus groups, and generate momentum. At the same time, these methods should feed into larger efforts to build trust and interest with peers and administration, laying the groundwork for more in-depth space UX assessment and more significant changes. The process and approach [the authors] suggest can be scaled for use in both large and small library systems.” This article is helpful to anyone who needs to begin UX practice in their workplace: Start small and use that data to build a larger UX practice.

Diana Fox Bentele