68.1 February

Recent and Relevant

by Sean C. Herring, 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 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.



A Latin-script typeface based on special education teachers’ opinions to use in literacy education of individuals with autism

Serin, E., Morgado, A. L. M., & Santos, R. (April–August 2020). Visible Language, 54(1–2), 66–95. https://visiblelanguagejournal.com/issue/322

“The present study is based on an investigation in the areas of psychology, pedagogy, and design. It investigated the reading process and reading education strategies of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in order to develop a typographic system to assist pedagogues as they develop educational aids appropriate for a child’s reading problems. The study used an interdisciplinary research methodology including a literature study, empirical knowledge, and a survey study. The survey was based on the opinions and experiences of special education teachers. The survey study showed that individuals with autism could have difficulties learning similar letterforms. According to the combined results…, the prototype of a typeface for individuals with autism and learning disabilities was developed. The Accessible Typeface v.1, v.2, v.3, v.4, v.5 family has been developed with the intention to facilitate learning-to-read and to minimize reading mistakes for individuals with autism and learning disabilities. However, before being implemented, this font family should be tested to conclude whether it is beneficial or not to teach an individual who has autism or learning disabilities in reading.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Audience analysis

Considering emotion in COVID-19 vaccine communication: Addressing vaccine hesitancy and fostering vaccine confidence

Chou, W. Y. S., & Budenz, A. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1838096

“Long-term control of the COVID-19 pandemic hinges in part on the development and uptake of a preventive vaccine. In addition to a segment of population that refuses vaccines, the novelty of the disease and concerns over safety and efficacy of the vaccine have a sizable proportion of the U.S. indicating reluctance to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Among various efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and foster vaccine confidence, evidence-based communication strategies are critical. There are opportunities to consider the role of emotion in communication efforts. In this commentary, we highlight several ways negative as well as positive emotions may be considered and leveraged. Examples include attending to negative emotions such as fear and anxiety, raising awareness of emotional manipulations by anti-vaccine disinformation efforts, and activating positive emotions such as altruism and hope as part of vaccine education endeavors.”

Walter Orr


Are two voices better than one? Comparing aspects of text quality and authorial voice in paired and independent L2 writing

Zabihi, R., & Bayan, M. (October 2020). Written Communication, 37(4), 512–535. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088320939542

“While this study involves teaching writing to L2 (2nd language learners), it has implications for the shared writing of today’s diverse workplaces. Research has shown that collaboratively produced texts are better in quality compared with individually written texts. However, no study has considered the role of collaboration in authorial voice, which is an essential element in current writing curricula. This study analyzes the effects of collaborative task performance in the quality of L2 learners’ argumentative texts and in their authorial voice strength. A total of 306 upper-intermediate L2 learners were selected and divided into independent (N = 130) and paired (N = 176) groups. Each learner/pair was asked to write one argumentative text. The quality of writings was determined by a quantitative analysis that included three measures of complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF). Participants’ authorial voice strength was assessed by two raters using an analytic voice rubric. Comparison of means revealed that pairs outperformed independent writers in all CAF measures. However, the results for the role of collaboration in authorial voice were mixed: While pairs were more successful than independent writers in manifesting their ideational voice, independent writers outperformed pairs with regard to affective and presence voice dimensions and holistic voice scores. The article concludes that, despite its positive implications for L2 writing, collaborative writing may pose challenges for learners’ authorial stance taking.”

Diana Fox Bentele


A day in the life: Personas of professional communicators at work

Brumberger, E., & Lauer, C. (2020). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 50(3), 308–335. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281619868723

“This article uses personas to illustrate the range of technical communication knowledge work developed through its practitioners—to articulate the functions, characteristics, traits, skills, and workplace styles of positions someone in the field might pursue. Recent research has provided valuable data about the expanding and evolving skill sets of the technical/professional communicator. [The authors] build on that by triangulating the data from an analysis of job postings, a survey of technical communicators, and interviews and embedded observations of practitioners to develop personas of technical/professional communicators on the job. The personas can help students, programs, and practitioners understand and navigate the many types of roles that are available in the field.”

Anita Ford

Are millennials communication deficient? Solving a generational puzzle in an Indian context

Shrivastava, A. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(3), 259–271. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3009713

“Although effective communication has been the most important attribute of success in the workplace, poor communication has hindered employees from performing well. This outcome worsens when communication occurs between cross-generational groups in an organization. . . . Prior research suggests that Millennials, who make up a large cohort of the population in workplaces, are technologically savvy, multitasking, and result-oriented but considered to be deficient in their communication skills. There exists a divergence between Millennials and previous generations in terms of their attitude, behavior, and value system.” This study asks whether there is “a significant difference in the communication styles of Millennials and their predecessors in India” and whether Millennials are “communication deficient” . . . [and/or] their Gen X predecessors lack the skills to recognize different generational preferences in order to effectively lead a multigenerational workforce. . . . For this investigation, a 36-item questionnaire measured 12 interpersonal styles through three items each on a Likert-type scale. . . . The results presented in this study are not limited to generational stereotyping but rather claim to be accurate and context-sensitive. Millennials defied general stereotypes in several ways. The findings confirmed that although Millennials are different, they are not necessarily communication deficient. . . . To flourish, Millennials and their predecessor and successor generations should strive to adapt to each other by avoiding stereotypes.”

Lyn Gattis

Communicating organizational identity as part of the legitimation process: A case study of small firms in an emerging field

Huang-Horowitz, N., & Evans, S. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 327–351. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417696726

“The purpose of this study is twofold: (a) to assess how small firms communicate their organizational identity (OI) as part of the legitimation process and (b) to explore communicated values as expressions of OI. Using nanotechnology as an emerging field context, the authors conducted interviews with managers from 23 small firms and analyzed the identity values expressed in company communication materials using computerized content analysis. The findings demonstrated a clear focus on gaining legitimacy by emphasizing social recognition and fitting in. Three paradoxes emerged as follows: being adaptable yet focused; being cutting edge yet traditional; and developing new products, yet ones that fit in with existing products. [The authors] propose that in addition to serving as expressions of firms’ OI, values can also drive the strategic communication of OI and may provide resolutions to these paradoxes. [The authors] introduce the term complex dynamic organizational identity to describe the way firms use multiple, fluid, and dynamic organizational identities as a component of strategic communication with stakeholders. [The authors] argue that firms should take a more active role in constructing a complex dynamic OI as a strategic approach to facing paradoxes and improving internal and external communication.”

Katherine Wertz


A Review of the cognitive effects of disfluent typography on functional reading

Thiessen, M., Beier, S., & Keage, H. (2020). The Design Journal: An International Journal for All Aspects of Design, 23(5), 797–815. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14606925.2020.1810434

“Recent debate has seen the proposition that difficult to read, or disfluent, typefaces can improve certain learning conditions. This is counterintuitive for typography where it is the aim to support reading acts by creating texts that are as clear and as easy to read as possible. We explore recent literature on the disfluency effect in an effort to contextualize the results for typography research that is grounded in functional readability. What is evident is that the discussion about whether or not disfluent reading materials support learning is far from resolved. Further research is needed in key areas such as those related to the typographic principles of visual cuing and emphasis as well as other broader areas such as how we may be able to determine threshold for disfluency, benefit over time, and what impact environmental distractions have on the disfluency effect.”

Edward A. Malone


The mathmagics of media princesses: Informal STEM learning, STEM rhetorics, and animated children’s movies

Fiss, A. (2019). Peitho, 22(1). https://cfshrc.org/article/the-mathmagics-of-media-princesses/

“Noting the ways that the movie Moana (2016) intervened in an academic mathematical debate, this article explores the ways that animated children’s movies have mirrored broader American rhetorics of mathematical success, which tend to omit female mathematical knowers. Comparing Moana with the earlier Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959), this article identifies the ways that the three films and their publicity have participated in the omission of female mathematicians, especially in their stories. In doing so, it argues for considering STEM rhetorics grounded in informal STEM learning, leading to questions about both STEM and education in Western contexts.”

Edward A. Malone

We need the lens of equity in COVID-19 communication

Viswanath, K., Lee, E. W. J., & Pinnamaneni, R. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1837445

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought forward the centrality of public communication as a force for information, and in highlighting the differential impact on diverse segments of the society. Information and communication technologies-led developments including social media have previously been discussed as instruments of democratization of knowledge. However, the evidence so far shows that the promise remains unfulfilled as upper socioeconomic groups acquire information at a faster rate than others. The communication inequalities have only reinforced the existing societal fault lines of race, class and place. As the first pandemic of the social media age, COVID-19 has also given rise to an “infodemic,” providing fertile ground for the spread of information, misinformation and disinformation. With limited gatekeeping, an immense amount of unprocessed scientific information is being put forward to publics not trained in science. In this commentary, we offer some propositions on how disinformation on COVID-19 has become mainstreamed through social media’s spiral of amplification and what role public communication has in an emergency from a lens of equity. We raise the question of whether the tremendous flow of scientific information during the COVID-19 pandemic has a differential impact on different socioeconomic groups. We propose that more systematic research is urgently needed to understand how mis/disinformation originate, spread, and what their consequences are. In our view, research in health communication inequalities is foundational to mitigating the current off-line and online ravages of the pandemic.”

Walter Orr


Towards next generation technical documentation in augmented reality using a context-aware information manager

Gattullo, M., et al. (2020). Applied Sciences, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.3390/app10030780

“Technical documentation is evolving from static contents presented on paper or via digital publishing to real-time on-demand contents displayed via virtual and augmented reality (AR) devices. However, how best to provide personalized and context-relevant presentation of technical information is still an open field of research. In particular, the systems described in the literature can manage a limited number of modalities to convey technical information, and do not consider the ‘people’ factor. Then, in this work, we present a Context-Aware Technical Information Management (CATIM) system, that dynamically manages (1) what information as well as (2) how information is presented in an augmented reality interface. The system was successfully implemented, and we made a first evaluation in the real industrial scenario of the maintenance of a hydraulic valve. We also measured the time performance of the system, and results revealed that CATIM performs fast enough to support interactive AR.”

Edward A. Malone


Engaging US students in culturally aware content creation and interactive technology design through service learning

Matheson, B., & and Petersen, E. J. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(2), 188–200. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.2982253

“As technical and professional communication (TPC) becomes increasingly networked, students must learn to work cross-culturally. However, these skills can be difficult to develop. [The authors] report on a service-learning project aimed at helping students write and design for an audience in India. . . . The authors saw a need to provide course materials to practitioners in India that became an opportunity to involve students in global content creation. This teaching case reports on two courses designed collaboratively to teach design and communication skills through service-learning, while providing course content to Indian practitioners of TPC. . . . This study uses qualitative student reflection documents from two courses to answer questions about how service-learning opportunities shape student skills. Their responses illustrate the successes and failures in the course designs and provide strategies for instructors working on similar projects. . . . Students reported that their experiences helped them to think critically about audience awareness, synthesize skills in collaboration, engage flexibly with new technologies, and work through time constraints. . . . [The authors] provide practical suggestions for implementing similar course designs at other institutions and information about implementing relevant technologies. It outlines adaptations for new teaching environments.”

Lyn Gattis

Ethical issues

Corporate environmentalism: A critical metaphor analysis of Chinese, American, and Italian corporate social responsibility reports

Yu, D. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(3), 244–258. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3012728

“Environmental reporting is an indispensable part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, which has become a main genre of nonfinancial disclosure for corporations. The present study explores how companies use metaphors to construct their role in the relationship with the environment. . . .” The author identifies metaphors “used by banking and energy companies to represent their role in the relationship with the environment . . . [and notes] similarities or differences across cultures.” The author examines the metaphors in light of their “corporate role,” their environmental impacts “from an ecolinguistic perspective,” and the reasons they are “used for environmental communication.” Using “a corpus of 180 CSR reports published by Chinese, US, and Italian companies the author “approach[es] metaphor use from a cross-cultural perspective,” situating the study within “the framework of critical metaphor analysis combined with genre analysis. . . . The study highlights both universal metaphors (manager, protector, and traveler) and culture-specific metaphors (the bee metaphor in Chinese, the steward metaphor in English, and the fighter metaphor in Italian) across three languages, which are used to represent the company’s good intentions, caring attitude, and responsible behavior, contributing to building an environmentally responsible corporate image. Some of the metaphors seem useful in inspiring eco-constructive behavior, while others may bear eco-destructive connotations.”

Lyn Gattis


A tardy uptake

Freadman, A. (2020). Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 30, 105–132. https://doi.org/10.31468/cjsdwr.781

“Following Carolyn Miller’s (1984) definition of genre as social action, subsequent work in the field of rhetorical genre theory has focused on two aspects of her account. The first is the claim that ‘a genre is a rhetorical means for mediating private intention and social exigence’ (Miller, 1984, p. 163). The site of this mediation is now referred to as the subject—a term that is imported from psychoanalysis and critical social theory. I am concerned that the theoretical freight carried by this term—with its claim to address the ‘big questions’ of subjectivity—diverts us from our focus on ‘how the genre works as rhetorical action’ (Miller, 1984, p. 159). I shall replace the subject with the agent, moving then to argue that bringing uptake to bear on agency helps shift the debate to a more strictly rhetorical terrain. The second aspect that has been focused on is exigence: the ‘social motive’ of rhetorical action, ‘an objectified social need’ lying at ‘the core of situation’ (Miller, 1984, pp. 158, 157). I consider an ambiguity at the heart of this concept of exigence between the work it does in accounting for punctual rhetorical action—the genre in actu—and its work in generalizing over some genre in virtu. Because of this, I move to replace exigence with alternative ways of conceiving the site of rhetorical action. Throughout, I accept broadly the framework of Rhetorical Genre Studies. While I seek to solve the problems through a rigorous reliance on rhetoric, I move beyond this frame when I discuss the restrictions on a theory of genre imposed by an exclusive assumption of verbal or discursive acts.”

Edward A. Malone

Health communication

Sending and receiving safety and risk messages in hospitals: An exploration into organizational communication channels and providers’ communication overload

Barrett, A. K., Ford, J., & Zhu, Y. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1788498

“This study explores hospital workers’ experiences with workplace communication overload and its implications for effective safety and risk messaging in hospital organizations. [The authors] use a multi-step thematic analysis of interview (N = 12) and focus group (N = 8, 28 participants) data collected from hospital workers to analyze how they describe specific organizational communication channels influencing their communication overload. [Authors] specifically examine how workers’ socially constructed channel affordances and constraints for sending/receiving safety information provide meaning to their communicatively overloaded states. Hospital workers explained that asynchronous channels such as e-mail and voicemail aggravated communication overload, while synchronous channels such as team huddles alleviated it. [Authors] discuss the implications of these results for the communication overload model by pointing to violations of communication channel preference and literature on the social affordances of communication channels. Study limitations and future directions are offered.”

Walter Orr

Information management

Don’t dumb it down: The effects of jargon in COVID-19 crisis communication

Shulman, H. C., & Bullock, O. M. (2020). PLoS One, 15(10), e0239524. https://doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239524

“Experts are typically advised to avoid jargon when communicating with the general public, but previous research has not established whether avoiding jargon is necessary in a crisis. Using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, this online survey experiment (N = 393) examined the effect of jargon use across three different topics that varied in situational urgency: COVID-19 (high urgency), flood risk (low urgency), and federal emergency policy (control). Results revealed that although the use of jargon led to more difficult processing and reduced persuasion for the two less-urgent topics (flood risk, emergency policy), there was no effect of jargon in the COVID-19 condition. Theoretically, these findings suggest that the motivation to process information is an important moderator for crisis communication in particular and science communication in general. Practically, these findings suggest that science communicators, during times of crisis, do not need to “dumb down” their language in the same way they should during non-crises.”

Walter Orr


The impact of perceived foreign language proficiency on hybrid team culture

Fleischmann, C., Folter, L., & Aritz, J. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 497–516. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417710440

“This study examines the impact of perceived foreign language proficiency on hybrid culture building in multicultural teams. Hybrid culture includes a mutually shared set of norms, communication patterns, problem-solving approaches, and synergistic task coordination that result from the diverse cultural backgrounds of the team members. Language is the main vehicle for communication and plays a major role in social interaction and therefore hybrid culture building. [The authors] argue that the level of perceived language proficiency of multicultural team members influences hybrid culture building; consequently, adequate language skills lead not only to an efficient task solution but are also an important factor in creating interpersonal relationships and building a shared culture. [The authors’] empirical analysis supports the positive influence of language proficiency in hybrid teams; however, foreign language proficiency is more influential on cognitively oriented areas of multicultural teamwork than on affective ones.”

Katherine Wertz


Survey results: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical communicators

Winter-Vann, A., & Kryder, C. L. (2020). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 35(3), 111–114.

“In May, 2020, AMWA surveyed medical communicators to better understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their work and livelihoods. This article summarizes the results of that survey.”

Walter Orr


Building psychological safety through training interventions: Manage the team, not just the project

Dusenberry, L., & Robinson, J. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(3), 207–226. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3014483

“Successful team collaborations require psychological safety (PS)—a measure that addresses how individuals perceive their own behaviors in a team, allowing members to be comfortable being themselves. Technical communication curricula do not engage deeply with managing the socioemotional components of collaboration. . . .” This study explores whether “targeted training intervention [would] produce higher levels of psychological safety {and whether] team duration affect[s] teaming success as exemplified by psychological safety, satisfaction, and cohesion. . . .” The authors “surveyed 215 students in 50+ short- and long-term teams to understand the effects of a specific training intervention (a PS learning module).” They found that while training “had no significant impact . . . targeted training might still increase psychological safety. Short-term teams experienced significantly better psychological safety over long-term teams, and psychological safety improved the more time members spent in teams. Comparisons within longitudinal intervals were also significant, indicating that different team contexts influenced [the] results. . . . Results suggest that incorporating team-specific training may facilitate building a personal awareness of interdependence among team members. Moreover, research should account for contextual differences and use longitudinal team self-assessments. Future research should concentrate on identifying a range of viability for PS useful in benchmarking.”

Lyn Gattis

Political discourse

Voting can be hard, information helps

Crowder-Meyer, M., Gadarian, S. K., & Trounstine, J. (2020). Urban Affairs Review, 56(1), 124–153.

“Many U.S. elections provide voters with precious little information about candidates on the ballot. In local contests, party labels are often absent. In primary elections, party labels are not useful. Indeed, much of the time, voters have only the name of the candidate to go by. In these contexts, how do voters make decisions? Using several experiments, we find that voters use candidates’ race, ethnicity, and gender as cues for whom to support—penalizing candidates of color and benefiting women. But we also demonstrate that providing even a small amount of information to voters—such as candidate occupation—virtually erases the effects of candidate demographics on voter behavior, even among voters with high levels of racial and gender prejudice.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Communication among voters benefits the majority party

Palfrey, T. R., & Pogorelskiy, K. (2019). The Economic Journal, 129(618), 961–990.

“How does communication among voters affect turnout? In a laboratory experiment, subjects, divided into two competing parties, choose between costly voting and abstaining. Pre-play communication treatments, relative to the no communication control, are public communication (subjects exchange public messages through computers) and party communication (messages are public within one’s own party). Communication benefits the majority party by increasing its turnout margin, hence its winning probability. Party communication increases turnout; public communication decreases total turnout with a low voting cost. With communication, there is no support for Nash equilibrium and limited consistency with correlated equilibrium.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Evidence on the effect of political platform transparency on partisan voting

Duerr, I., Knight, T., & Woodworth, L. (2019). Eastern Economic Journal, 45(3), 331–349.

“We examine the impact of providing voters with additional information related to candidates’ views on particular issues on voters’ tendencies to cross the party line. When we randomize the provision of this information in an experimental setting where participants are undergraduate students at a large public university, we find that “treatment” increases the likelihood that a voter will cross the party line by an average of 4 percentage points. This corresponds to an approximately 20% decrease in partisan voting. Surprisingly, treatment effects are not more pronounced among voters whose opposing party’s candidate is the relatively moderate candidate in the election. They are, however, more pronounced among Democrat voters. These findings suggest that transparency, with respect to candidates’ views on particular issues, has a corroding effect on partisanship among a subset of voters.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Consequences of politicians’ disrespectful communication depend on social judgment dimensions and voters’ moral identity

Mölders, C., Van Quaquebeke, N., & Paladino, M. P. (2017). Political Psychology, 38(1), 119–135.

“The present study investigates the consequences of respectful versus disrespectful communication in political debates on voters’ social judgments and voting decisions. Reconciling previously mixed results, we argue that the consequences of disrespect vary with the judgment dimension (communion vs. agency) and voters’ moral identity. An initial study (N = 197) finds that a political candidate’s disrespect towards his or her opponent affects voting decision through voting intention. A second study (N = 327) shows that disrespect influences voting intention through communion but not through agency ratings. Qualifying the previous finding, a third study (N = 329) shows that both communion and agency judgments act as mediators, but in different ways depending on the level of moral identity. Overall, communion judgments played a more prominent part in explaining the consequences of disrespectful communication. Our findings thus present a nuanced picture of respect and disrespect in political communication and shed light on their ramifications.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Beyond evidence versus truthiness: toward a symmetrical approach to knowledge and ignorance in policy studies

Paul, K. T., & Haddad, C. (2019). Policy Sciences, 52(2), 299–314.

“Current political developments in established liberal democracies in both Europe and North America have fundamentally called into question the normative relations between truth, knowledge, and politics. Whether labeled “posttruth” or truthiness, commentators lament the willful spread and deployment of nonknowledge and ignorance as important political forces. In this paper, we discuss ignorance in its strategic dimension by weaving together insights from the sociology of ignorance with a policy-scientific approach. By means of three empirical vignettes, we demonstrate that ignorance is more than the flipside of knowledge or merely its lack: it is a constitutive feature of the policy process and is thus not uniquely symptomatic of the current era. We conclude by arguing for what we call a symmetrical approach in which ignorance receives the same quality of attention that knowledge has historically received in the policy sciences. To make fully visible the different forms of ignorance that shape policy processes, policy scholars must hone their “agnoto-epistemological sensibilities” to cope with the current challenges and advance a policy science for democracy.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Public relations

Communication preferences of business-to-business buyers for receiving initial sales messages: A comparison of media channel selection theories

Anders, A., Coleman, J., & Castleberry, S. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 370–400. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417702476

“Recent research on media channel selection theories has called for studies exploring communication in interorganizational business relationships and for specific work functions. The present study addresses this need through an exploration of buyer-seller communication practices in business-to-business contexts. Based on a survey of buyers, it offers a comparison of e-mail and voice mail with an emphasis on preferences for initial or cold call sales messages. The study design compares the explanatory power of three prominent theories of media channel selection: media richness theory, channel expansion theory, and media synchronicity theory. Results indicate that e-mail and voice mail/phone are the most frequently used media channels for business-to-business sales communication. Buyers preferred to receive initial messages from new salespeople by e-mail. Voice mail and phone are preferred for specific processes in established relationships, including conflict resolution, negotiations, and relationship building. Of the three theoretical models, media synchronicity theory offered the most thorough and robust account of buyer media preferences and channel selection rationales. Congruent with the expectations of media synchronicity theory, buyers preferred e-mail for communication processes characterized by the conveyance of information due to its capabilities for information processing. In particular, buyers preferred the higher parallelism of e-mail—including its capabilities for engaging in multiple conversations simultaneously—as it supported multitasking working styles.”

Katherine Wertz


Linguistic inclusion: Challenging implicit classed communication bias in interview methods

Gist-Mackey, A. N., & Kingsford, A. N. (2020). Management Communication Quarterly, 34(3), 402–425. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318920934128

“This research points out problems inherent in using interviews in research and challenges what rich data does and should mean. Social class influences communication behaviors in a variety of ways, including, for example, norms regarding volume, silence, and language use. Communication typical of white-collar backgrounds is often privileged in social life, while communication common to blue-collar backgrounds is marginalized. However, organizational scholars rarely discuss such tendencies and their impact on research methods and findings. Indeed, as scholars, we are often trained that verbose, rich interview data is ideal for all qualitative organizational communication research, even as these standards implicitly privilege white-collar communication norms. In this study, scholars are called to reimagine the most commonly used method of qualitative data collection, interviews, in order to address implicit classed communication biases in qualitative organizational communication scholarship. As knowledge about discourse, materiality, and organizing continues to evolve in organizational communication, it is imperative that scholars develop more inclusive methods. We propose and discuss more inclusive methods of data collection that can involve unlearning biased approaches to methods, and consider specific techniques such as photovoice, linguistic pilot tests, and conscientious fieldwork.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Scientific writing

Implementing a transactional design model to ensure the mindful development of public-facing science communication projects

Lauer, C. (2020). Communication Design Quarterly, 8(3), 4–15. https://doi.org/10.1145/3410430.3410431

“This paper introduces the concept of transactional design—integrating Druschke’s ‘transactional’ model of rhetoric and science and Kinsella’s model of ‘public expertise’—to demonstrate how technical communication and user experience (UX) designers and researchers can play an essential role in helping scientists cultivate meaningful relationships with members of the public toward the goal of making scientific content more accessible and actionable. This paper reports on the challenges that arose when a water modeling system built for experts was adapted for a public museum audience. It discusses specific issues the UX team had in contending with outdated ‘deficit’ and ‘conduit’ models of communication when working with scientists to adapt the system; it provides a checklist for steps that technical communication and UX designers and researchers—as those who best understand audiences and work directly with users—can use to champion the idea of transactional design to setup knowledge-making partnerships toward the coconstruction of public-facing scientific communication projects.”

Lyn Gattis


Culturally situated Do-It-Yourself instructions for making protective masks: Teaching the genre of instructional design in the age of COVID-19

Sushil K. O., & Zsuzsanna, B. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 160–166. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920959190

“This article employs cross-cultural communication approaches to teaching instructional design in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on instructions from France, India, Spain, and the United States for making protective masks, the authors highlight how the writers and designers of these four documents from each culture approach their audiences, organize their DIY instructions, make language choices, employ images and other illustration devices, and culturally persuade users. While acknowledging cultural differences, the authors urge students to identify and adopt design strengths from diverse cultures in their own ideas about composing instructions.”

Sean C. Herring


The WHO health alert: Communicating a global pandemic with WhatsApp

Walwema, J. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 35–40. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920958507

“Upon declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) orchestrated a global risk-communication outreach. The WHO’s objective was to persuade the public to upend and alter their lives so as to contain the disease and minimize its spread and infection. The WHO found a simple and efficient medium to communicate glocally through the social media application WhatsApp, through which individuals could access information without gatekeeping by governments and local agencies.”

Sean C. Herring

Usability studies

Along the cow path: Technical communication within a Jewish cemetery

Slotkin, A. (2020). Communication Design Quarterly, 8(3), 16–25. https://doi.org/10.1145/3410430.3410432

“Technical communication and user experience studies traditionally uphold Western onto-epistemological distinctions between technical users and objects. Recent calls for the inclusion of cultural approaches to technical communication, however, have asked scholars to consider the influence cultural knowledge has on communication design. This article takes up these calls by reading technical documentation through new materialist and Indigenous ways of knowing. Using a prominent Jewish cemetery in Gainesville, Florida as a case study, this article treats technical artifacts and subjects as co-constitutive, arguing for the cultural and material agency of technical documentation design in mediating and shaping user experience.”

Lyn Gattis

User experience

Your coworkers deserve good ux, too

Hoffman, L. (March 2020). Weave, 3(1). https://dx.doi.org/10.3998/weave.12535642.0003.103

“This article advocates using the same user experience tools within an organization that we use for outside stakeholders’ UX. The author shares specific IT examples that may increase productivity, more quickly solve problems, and increase employee satisfaction.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Drafting pandemic policy: Writing and sudden institutional change

Workman, E., Vandenberg, P., & Crozier, M. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 140–146. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920959194

“This article reports findings from an institutional ethnography of university stakeholders’ writing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrating the affordances of this methodology for professional and technical communication. Drawing on interview transcripts with faculty and administrators from across the university, the authors contextualize the role of writing in the iterative, collaborative, distributed writing processes by which the university transitioned from a traditional A–F grading scheme to a pass or fail option in just a few business days. They analyze these stakeholders’ experiences, discussing some effects of this accelerated timeline on policy development, writing processes, and uses of writing technologies within this new context of remote teaching and learning.”

Sean C. Herring