67.4 November 2020

Recent and Relevant

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 Sean Herring at SeanHerring@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.


Audience analysis

Countering reactance in crisis communication: Incorporating positive emotions via social media

Xu, J., & Wu, Y. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 352–369. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417702475

“Based on the psychological reactance theory, this study examined the effect of incorporating sympathy via social media on countering reactance in crisis communication. The study employed a 2 (expressing sympathy: yes vs. no) × 2 (medium: Twitter vs. news release) between-subject experimental design. Two hundred and fifty-three (N = 253) American consumers recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk participated in this online experiment. Results indicated that using Twitter and expressing sympathy significantly lowered reactance. There was no interaction effect between the two factors, such that their influence on reactance was not contingent on one another. There was a partial yet significant mediation effect of reactance between medium and two outcomes (perceived crisis responsibility and organizational reputation). There was no mediation effect of reactance between sympathy expressed and two outcomes. The theoretical and managerial implications were discussed, as well as limitations and suggestions for future research.”

Katherine Wertz


Well, now what do we do? Wait . . .: A group process analysis of meeting lateness

Lehmann-Willenbrock, N., & Allen, J. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 302–326. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417696725

“Workplace meetings start late all the time for a number of reasons. When participants are kept waiting, this can be experienced as a drain of personal resources. In this article, [the authors] integrate perspectives from conservation of resources theory, individual goal setting, group problem solving, and temporal dynamics to derive predictions regarding individual attendees’ meeting experiences and behavioral group communication patterns under conditions of meeting lateness. [The authors] conducted an experiment using 32 student groups in which 16 groups started their meeting on time, while 16 started their meeting 10 minutes late. [The authors] found that late meetings were less satisfying than on time meetings. Using videotaped meeting interactions, [the authors] analyzed the group dynamics at the micro-level of conversational utterances. Controlling for meeting duration, groups in the lateness condition showed substantially less solution-focused communication overall, less idea elaboration, less in-depth problem descriptions, and fewer socioemotional support statements than groups who started on time. Furthermore, lag sequential analysis revealed distinctly different temporal communication patterns. [The authors] discuss research implications for understanding meeting experiences through a conservation of resources lens as well as practical implications for managing group communication processes in workplace meetings.”

Katherine Wertz


Balancing science and promotion in medical writing

Bhat, A., & Joshi, C. (2020). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 35(2), 51–57. [doi: none]

“Explores the reasons for the increasing promotional influence in medical writing and the potential solutions, which include the role of a medical writer, to restore a balance between science and promotion.”

Walter Orr


Story mapping and sea level rise: Listening to global risks at street level

Stephens, S. H., & Richards, D. P. (2020). Communication Design Quarterly, 8(1), 5–18. https://doi.org/10.1145/3375134.3375135

“While interactive maps are important tools for risk communication, most maps omit the lived experiences and personal stories of the community members who are most at risk. {The authors] describe a project to develop an interactive tool that juxtaposes coastal residents’ videorecorded stories about sea level rise and coastal flooding with an interactive map that shows future sea level rise projections. [The authors] outline project development including digital platform selection, project design, participant recruitment, and narrative framing, and tie [their] design decisions to rhetorical and ethical considerations of interest for others developing interactive tools with community participation.”

Lyn Gattis

Discourse communities

Of technical writing, instructions for use as a specialised genre and discourse communities

Isani, S. (2019). ASp: La Revue du GERAS, 75, 3–23. http://journals.openedition.org/asp/5713

“This article posits that, if the procedural subgenre Instructions for Use (IFU) qualifies as a specialised genre identifiable by characteristic textual and linguistic conventions, the corollary notion of discourse community is a moot question. After a brief overview of the umbrella genre of procedural texts and the extensive subgenre of IFUs, we look at the textual and linguistic features of the genre, notably with regard to its brachyology-imposed transgressive nature vis-à-vis Standard English, and its relation to controlled languages. We then discuss the notion of genre in relation to the Swalesian construct of discourse community. We examine the traits specific to the addresser (the technical writer) and conclude that a body of expert members does indeed exist. On the other hand, an analysis of the addressee (global end-users) in the light of the Kachruvian circles concludes that the shifting and ultra-diversified nature of the addressee’s literacy and English language competence precludes their being grouped together as part of a homogeneous discourse community. To conclude we take a look at current trends towards wordless and dematerialised IFUs and hypothesise that the numerical divide will further disintegrate addressee cohesion.”

Edward A. Malone

The process of dictionarisation in English for police purposes: Dictionaries, glossaries and encyclopaedias as entry points in the specialised language and communities of policing and law enforcement

Cartron, A. (2019). ASp: La Revue du GERAS, 75, 79–95. http://journals.openedition.org/asp/5842

“This paper focuses on a hitherto little-studied specialised variety of English: English for Police Purposes. The publication of dictionaries, glossaries and encyclopaedias of policing and law enforcement sheds light not only on the existence of this specialised language, but also on the necessity to make specialised terms and concepts accessible to non-specialists. Dictionarisation is not the only criterion of specialisation; nevertheless, these publications do offer interesting entry points in the specialised language and communities of policing. This study proposes an outline of the content of five selected specialised dictionaries, glossaries and encyclopaedias. It also analyses the role played by contributors and the motivations they express in introductory parts. Several elements taken into account when compiling a dictionary, such as the profile of intended users or the need to adapt to institutional changes, are also investigated.”

Edward A. Malone


Diversity or division: Language choices on international organizations’ official websites

Zhang, H., Wu, Y., & Xie, Z. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(2), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.2982258

“With the extensive use of the internet, cyber language management has become a critical issue for international organizations (IOs). IOs’ language choices on their official websites represent the very interests of member nations and form a key factor in organizational image construction. However, research on IOs’ cyber language management is rather limited. . . . “ This article asks the following research questions: “1. What languages are used on international organizations’ official websites? 2. How do intergovernmental organizations differ from nongovernmental organizations in such language choices and cyber language management?” The researchers used qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze data from “the official websites of 50 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and 20 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). . . . The findings show that English is the dominant language on IOs’ official websites, and is especially preferred by NGOs; inconsistency of IOs’ cyber language policy is found among the languages used on specific pages, e-documents, and the general available languages; and IGOs’ language choices are more diversified, unified, and standardized than NGOs’.” The authors also analyze “the effect of technology on IOs’ language policy’” and offer “suggestions for IOs’ language management . . . concerning the linguistic ecology at supra-national levels.

Lyn Gattis


The AMA manual of style: A guide for authors and editors—What’s new in the 11th edition

Schrank, K., Christiansen, S. L., & Flanagin A. (2020). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 35(2), 64–69. [doi: none]

“An insider’s look into the new AMA Manual of Style. What are the key changes? What resources are provided along with this new edition?”

Walter Orr

Ethical issues

How to whistle-blow: Dissensus and demand

Kenny, K., & Bushnell, A. (2020). Journal of Business Ethics, 1–14. [doi: none]

“What makes an external whistleblower effective? Whistleblowers represent an important conduit for dissensus, providing valuable information about ethical breaches and organizational wrongdoing. They often speak out about injustice from a relatively weak position of power, with the aim of changing the status quo. But many external whistleblowers fail in this attempt to make their claims heard and thus secure change. Some can experience severe retaliation and public blacklisting, while others are ignored. This article examines how whistleblowers can succeed in bringing their claims to the public’s attention. We draw on analyses of political struggle by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Moufe. Specifcally, we propose that through the raising of a demand, the whistleblowing subject can emerge as part of a chain of equivalences, in a counter-hegemonic movement that challenges the status quo. An analysis of a high-profle case of tax justice whistleblowing-that of Rudolf Elmer-illustrates our argument. Our proposed theoretical framing builds upon and contributes to literature on whistleblowing as organizational parrhesia by demonstrating how parrhesiastic demand might lead to change in public perception through the formation of alliances with other disparate interests—albeit that the process is precarious and complex. Practically, our article illuminates a persistent concern for those engaged in dissensus via whistleblowing, and whose actions are frequently ignored or silenced. We demonstrate how such actions can move towards securing public support in order to make a difference and achieve change.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Health communication

Evaluating the impact of attempts to correct health misinformation on social media: A meta-analysis

Walter, N., Brooks, J. J., Saucier, C. J., & Suresh, S. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1794553

“Social media poses a threat to public health by facilitating the spread of misinformation. At the same time, however, social media offers a promising avenue to stem the distribution of false claims – as evidenced by real-time corrections, crowdsourced fact-checking, and algorithmic tagging. Despite the growing attempts to correct misinformation on social media, there is still considerable ambiguity regarding the ability to effectively ameliorate the negative impact of false messages. To address this gap, the current study uses a meta-analysis to evaluate the relative impact of social media interventions designed to correct health-related misinformation…Interventions were more effective in cases where participants were involved with the health topic, as well as when misinformation was distributed by news organizations (vs. peers) and debunked by experts (vs. non-experts). The findings of this meta-analysis can be used not only to depict the current state of the literature but also to prescribe specific recommendations to better address the proliferation of health misinformation on social media.”

Walter Orr

Invention communicating about COVID-19: Practices for today, planning for tomorrow

St.Amant, K. (2020). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 50(3), 211–223. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281620923589

“In times of public health crises, effective information on how to perform daily activities can be central to the stability of local communities. Technical communicators can make important contributions to these situations by developing materials that meet local informational needs. This entry reviews strategies technical communicators can use to address public health challenges on the local level both today and in the future.”

Anita Ford

Information management

Through the grapevine: Informational consequences of interpersonal political communication

Carlson, T. N. (2019). American Political Science Review, 113(2), 325–339. [doi: none]

“Much of the US public acquires political information socially. However, the consequences of acquiring information from others instead of the media are under-explored. I conduct a “telephone-game” experiment to examine how information changes as it flows from official reports to news outlets to other people, finding that social information is empirically different from news articles. In a second experiment on a nationally representative sample, I randomly assign participants to read a news article or a social message about that article generated in Study 1. Participants exposed to social information learned significantly less than participants who were exposed to the news article. However, individuals exposed to information from someone who is like-minded and knowledgeable learned the same objective facts as those who received information from the media. Although participants learned the same factual information from these ideal informants as they did from the media, they had different subjective evaluations.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Inductively versus deductively structured product descriptions: Effects on Chinese and Western readers

Li, Q., Karreman, J., & de Jong, M. D. T. (2020). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 34(4), 335–363. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920932192

“This study examines the effects of inductively versus deductively organized product descriptions on Chinese and Western readers. It uses a 2 × 3 experimental design with text structure (inductive versus deductive) and cultural background (Chinese living in China, Chinese living in the Netherlands, and Westerners) as independent variables and recall, reading time, and readers’ opinions as dependent variables. Participants read a product description that explained two refrigerator types and then recommended which one to purchase. The results showed that Chinese readers rated readability and persuasiveness higher when the text was structured inductively whereas Western readers rated these aspects equally high for the inductively and deductively structured text. The results suggest that culturally preferred organizing principles do not affect readers’ ability to read and understand texts but that these principles might affect their opinions about the texts.”

Sean C. Herring

Intercultural communication

Beginning with Ganesha: The founding and early history of the Society for Technical Communication in India

Matheson, B. (2020). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 50(3), 289–307. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281619873139

“Scholars have given much weight to the question of professional legitimacy in the field of TPC, but much of that focus has been given to practitioners in Euro-Western contexts. However, practitioners in India have also worked to strengthen their own legitimacy in a variety of ways, including by harnessing existing structural mechanisms. This article addresses the founding of the Society for Technical Communication India chapter in 1999 and its subsequent organizational impact as a mechanism toward improving the legitimacy of the field in India. It covers a historical analysis of the founding years of the Society for Technical Communication India chapter and discusses ways that founding members and early participants worked to build their own legitimacy.”

Anita Ford


Figurative language in Arabic e-commerce text

Ahmad, R., Torlakova, L., Liginlal, D., & Meeds, R. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 279–301. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488416688216

“Based on an analysis of a corpus of Arabic e-commerce websites, this article investigates the use of figurative language in e-business texts. While [the authors’] focus is on metaphors, [the authors] also incorporate the related concept of metonymy to explain the data. Using the theoretical framework of cognitive linguistics and discourse analysis, [the authors] examine the linguistic and conceptual metaphors used in e-commerce texts. The empirical analysis demonstrates that the metaphor of COMPANIES ARE LIVING ORGANISMS is the most prevailing one and provides the cognitive frame within which the e-commerce texts are constructed. Entailments and specifications of this cognitive metaphor further structure the texts. Other cognitive metaphors that underlie the text are those of a FORWARD MOVEMENT, PATH—GOAL, and COMPANIES ARE COMPLEX STRUCTURES. On a more general level, [the authors] show that despite the fact that the e-commerce text is in Arabic, the underlying cognitive framework is not much different from that in other Western languages. [The authors] do, however, find some linguistic strategies that attempt to make the text sound more typically Arabic.”

Katherine Wertz


Social media in professional, technical, and scientific communication programs: A heuristic to guide future use

Miller, J. R., Dieterle, B., deWinter, J., & Vie, S. (2020). Communication Design Quarterly, 8(1), 19–34. https://doi.org/10.1145/3375134.3375136

“This article reports on the results of a research study supported by a CPTSC research grant that analyzed programmatic use of social media in professional, technical, and scientific communication programs (TPCs). This mixed-methods study included a survey of TPC program administrators (n = 29), an inventory of TPCs’ social media account use (n = 70), and an inventory of TPCs’ course offerings that included social media (n = 27). Results showed that programmatic use of social media requires strategic consideration, particularly in order to generate two-way communication, a goal of many of the TPCs studied. To that end, [this] article generates questions and guiding suggestions (drawn from [this] three-part study) to guide administrators who wish to include social media in their TPC.”

Lyn Gattis

Public relations

Intra-campaign changes in voting preferences: The impact of media and party communication

Johann, D., Königslöw, K. K. V., Kritzinger, S., & Thomas, K. (2018). Political communication, 35(2), 261–286. [doi: none]

“An increasing number of citizens change and adapt their party preferences during the electoral campaign. We analyze which short-term factors explain intra-campaign changes in voting preferences, focusing on the visibility and tone of news media reporting and party canvassing. Our analyses rely on an integrative data approach, linking data from media content analysis to public opinion data. This enables us to investigate the relative impact of news media reporting as well as party communication. Inherently, we overcome previously identified methodological problems in the study of communication effects on voting behavior. Our findings reveal that campaigns matter: Especially interpersonal party canvassing increases voters’ likelihood to change their voting preferences in favor of the respective party, whereas media effects are limited to quality news outlets and depend on individual voters’ party ambivalence.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


A comparison of research topics associated with technical communication, business communication, and professional communication, 1963–2017

Carradini, S. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(2), 118–138. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.2988757

“Technical communication, business communication, and professional communication are potentially overlapping disciplines with open disciplinary questions.” This study investigated research abstracts in the period 1963-2017 to identify research topics unique to each of the three disciplines, and topics shared among the disciplines. Using “collocation analysis on the target phrases technical communication, business communication, and professional communication from a 4822-abstract corpus” the author “compared words collocated with target phrases to find words unique to a single term, those shared with two terms, or those shared with all three terms. . . . Findings identified science communication as a technical communication topic; other findings corroborated previous research. Business communication findings corroborated previous research and identified an emphasis on global communication. Findings show professional communication as a rhetorically flexible term that creates a space for emerging concepts and expands disciplinary boundaries. The three shared communication, pedagogy, international, and disciplinary concerns.” The author concludes “[t]he disciplines feature some overlap but maintain distinct research foci. Professional communication is a distinctive discipline that assists technical communication and business communication by incubation of emerging concepts.”

Lyn Gattis

Scientific writing

Enhancing bowel cancer surgery recovery

Lonsdale, M.d.S., Sciberras, S., Ha, H., & Chapman, S. (April–August 2020). Visible language, 54(1–2), 170–185. http://visiblelanguagejournal.com/issue/322

Researchers used information design principles and user-centered methods to improve medical educational materials. “Bowel surgery is the most common treatment for numerous bowel diseases including cancer…. Pre-operative education assists in the psychological preparation for surgery, which has been shown to have a positive impact on patient satisfaction, pain management, and the duration of hospital stay. Traditionally, information is provided … in text heavy written format. Unfortunately, the development of new education interventions uncommonly involves patients and other information specialists in their design. To tackle this problem, a mixed-methods user-centered design approach was conducted to redesign an existing patient information booklet.… to create a more visualized design format that follows research-based cognitive and design principles. Empirical testing …[yielded] both qualitative and quantitative data. Results show significant differences… This … was … followed by the development of companion outputs (website and environmental infographics)… [T]this study provides significant evidence and important guidelines on how to effectively communicate bowel surgery recovery information to patients, in order to increase their understanding and active role in their recovery, as well as minimize their uncertainties and anxiety. Although focusing on a specific scenario, these findings are also widely applicable to many forms of healthcare information.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Legally minded technical communicators: A case study of a legal writing course

Agboka, G. Y. (2020). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 34(4), 393–414. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920932198

“Understanding the law and its impact on the practice of technical communication has been an important scholarly thread in technical and professional communication (TPC) for more than two decades. Technical communicators recognize the impact of their work on stakeholders as well as the potential liability issues associated with composing technical communication documents. While this scholarship is widespread, relatively few pedagogical resources are available to prepare students for success in a litigious world or to guide instructors in teaching legal writing. This article offers a case study of a legal writing course that prepares TPC students to develop legal literacy and succeed in the workplace.”

Sean C. Herring


Anticipating gaze-based HCI applications with the tech receptivity interval: Eye tracking as input

Peterson, M., Tober, B., Littlejohn, D., & Hill, M. (April–August 2020). Visible language, 54(1–2), 98–127. http://visiblelanguagejournal.com/issue/322

This information will be useful to designers, especially those working in new technologies; additionally, it will be important for instructors to share the research and job opportunities this can create for their students. “HCI researchers have repurposed diagnostic eye tracking technology as a mode of user input. Existing applications are numerous, but … gaze-based HCI represents a fundamental change to the human–computer relationship if adopted for general interaction and information design purposes. A gaze-responsive system can make inferences on a user’s mental state and respond rapidly without explicit user commands. The implications of such a system are significant, and are difficult to imagine and anticipate. We introduce the tech receptivity interval (TRI) as a framework to guide speculative design investigations that imagine potential applications of nascent technology. TRI distinguishes infancy and maturity conditions of receptivity, emphasizing the need for users to adapt to technologies before technological affordances can be fully realized. We provide case reports on gaze-based interaction, using TRI and conducted in an academic design studio The case reports suggest applications not yet addressed in the literature. The case reports also suggest gaze-responsive changes to information structures in the form of temporal hierarchy and temporal text, which break from the long tradition of language representation in static lines and paragraphs.”

Diana Fox Bentele

How large information technology companies use Twitter: Arrangement of corporate accounts and characteristics of tweets

Zhang, S., Gosselt, J. F., & De Jong, M. D. T. (2020). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 34(4), 364–392. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920932191

“Twitter is widely used by companies to reach various stakeholders, but how they use this social media platform is still unclear. To investigate how companies use Twitter, this study analyzes the content of the Twitter accounts of four large information technology companies, focusing on the arrangement of different Twitter accounts and on message characteristics (content, message elements, and communication strategies). The results show that companies used architectures of different Twitter accounts to serve various stakeholder groups. The companies’ tweets covered diverse topics within the corporate, marketing, and technical communication domains. The tweets focused more on providing information and promoting action than on facilitating dialogue.”

Sean C. Herring

Usability studies

SUSapp: A free mobile application that makes the System Usability Scale (SUS) easier to administer

Xiong, J., Acemyan, C. Z., & Kortum, P. (2020). Journal of Usability Studies, 15(3), 135–144. [doi: none]

“The System Usability Scale (SUS), created by Brooke (1996), is a widely used measure to assess subjective usability. However, few digital tools have been created to help collect the required data and compute SUS scores, which rely upon a formula that is complex. The aim of the project was to develop an open-source iOS app to help experimenters easily collect data, automatically compute SUS scores, and conveniently export study data. To ensure the free SUSapp is itself usable for both experimenters and participants, human factors iterative design and development methods were used, and the final version of the iPhone app was assessed using ISO 9241-11’s suggested measurements of efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction.” The authors conclude from this project “that the app is usable, with 100% of the participants successfully using the application to rate a series of products, and a SUS score of 91. This supports the viability of using the SUSapp as an alternative to traditional methods of collecting SUS data. Further, use of the SUSapp will eliminate transcription and scoring errors that are often encountered when using other forms of the SUS.”

Lyn Gattis

User experience

Impact of kinetic typography on readers’ attention

Kuraityté, M., Bessemans, A., & Nuyts, E. (April–August 2020). Visible language, 54(1–2), 170–185. http://visiblelanguagejournal.com/issue/322

“Reading is one of the most complex cognitive processes requiring attention. In this research, we investigated the differences in attention duration, measured as fixation duration, of the different sub-categories of Kinetic Typography when compared to Serial Presentation. We used an eye-tracking system to record eye movements of controlled stimuli. Each stimulus consisted of a match between a different word and sub-category of Kinetic Typography. The data collected revealed significant differences between Fluid Typography and Serial Presentation in attention duration. These results are a starting point to understand better Kinetic Typography readers’ attention, which might lead to a better digital reading experience.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Writing, in English, for publication in science and technology, and policy: The example of nuclear security

Hirst, R. (2020). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 50(3), 252–288. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281619865154

“This article considers best practices for writing articles in science, technology, and policy, focusing on writing for international scholarly journals in nuclear security. Its two main audiences are technical communication educators/researchers and internationals wishing to publish their work in English-medium scholarly journals. [The author] discuss[es] publishing scenarios and challenges facing such authors and offer guidelines for producing clear, effective, publishable articles, in English, for international discourse. [The author’s] approach is based on traditional rhetorical principles, plain language studies, research pursued at nuclear security conferences, feedback from internationals at writing workshops, and [the author’s] experience as editor of the International Journal of Nuclear Security.”

Anita Ford