68.4 November 2021

Recent & Relevant

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.

Audience analysis

Comparison of college faculty and business professionals as evaluators of student business letters

Stengel, D.N., & Curry, J.J. (June 2021). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 84 (2), 135–155. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294906211008150

“This article reports on assessments of business letters assigned to students in a business communication course. Assessments were performed by faculty in other disciplines and local business professionals, with each sampled assignment evaluated by one faculty and one business professional. Overall, the assessments by the two groups were similar in terms of evaluation items related to quality of content and organization. However, faculty evaluators rated the letters lower on items related to mechanics, while business professional evaluators rated the letters lower on items related to professionalism. The paired assessments revealed only limited consistency between the two evaluator groups.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Individually tailoring messages to promote African American men’s health

Griffith, D.M, Jaeger, E.C., Semlow, A.R., Ellison, J.M., Bergner E.M., & Stewart, E.C. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2021.1913837

“In this paper, we describe our approach to individualizing messages to promote the health of middle-aged and older heterosexual, cisgender African American men. After arguing the importance of being population specific, we describe the process we use to increase the salience of health messages for this population by operationalizing the identity concepts of centrality and contextualization. We also present a measure of African American manhood and discuss how manhood is congruent with qualitative research that describes how African American men view their values, identities, goals, and aspirations in ways that can be utilized to create more meaningful and impactful messages to promote and maintain health behaviors. Our tailoring strategy uses an intersectional approach that considers how the centrality of racial identity and manhood and the salience of religiosity, spirituality, and role strains may help to increase the impact of health messages. We highlight the need to consider how the context of health behavior and the meaning ascribed to certain behaviors are gendered, not only from a man’s perspective, but also how his social networks, behavioral context, and the dynamic sociopolitical climate may consider gendered ideals in ways that shape behavior. We close by discussing the need to apply this approach to other populations of men, women, and those who are non-gender binary because this strategy builds from the population of interest and incorporates factors that they deem central and salient to their identities and behaviors. These factors are important to consider in interventions using health messages to pursue health equity.”

Walter Orr

Technical content marketing along the technology adoption lifecycle: Experience report

Mogull, S. A. (2021). Communication Design Quarterly, 9(2), 27–35. https://doi.org/10.1145/3453460.3453463

“This article provides an overview of technical content marketing and examines the audiences and messaging for technical product messaging, which differ from general consumer products. Notably, technical products, particularly those in innovative categories, require a varying marketing strategy throughout the technology adoption lifecycle as products appeal to customers with different attitudes towards technologies. Especially, content marketing for innovative technologies requires an understanding of the technical consumers’ (or audiences’) psychological motivations and needs, which have yet to be reviewed in the technical communication literature. In this article, the foundations of marketing innovative technical products are explored, with a specific focus on the messaging strategies as it changes to educate and persuade different categories of technology consumers during different phases of the technology adoption lifecycle. For new technical products and categories of products, the messages and channels of information evolve as the technical innovation progresses from the early market to a mainstream market, with both requiring adaptation to different audience segments and in response to emerging competitive pressures. For the majority of technical innovations, the technical content marketing strategy and messaging is a long-term investment for change to reach different consumer groups at the appropriate stage of the technical product life cycle.”

Lyn Gattis


Dude, that sucks: Examining Scrum’s influence on empathy in student teams

Friess, E. & Lam, C. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 189–203. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1803413

“The role of empathy in student team collaborations in technical and professional communication has been understudied. In this mixed methods study, we assess how Scrum affects both student perceptions of empathy and student use of empathetic strategies. We found that students who used Scrum considered themselves to be no more empathetic than students who did not use Scrum. However, a discourse analysis revealed that students who used Scrum deployed significantly more empathetic strategies than students who did not use Scrum.”

Rhonda Stanton

The moderating effect of virtuality on team trust and effectiveness

Paul, R. C., Furner, C. P., Drake, J. R., Hauser, R. D., & Kisling, E. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(2), 185–200. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3064393

“The use of virtual teams (VTs) has been growing steadily since the late 1990s. However, there is disagreement on how the virtuality of a team impacts the relationship of trust and team effectiveness. . .[Researchers in this study investigate how] dimensions of virtuality impact the relationship between intrateam trust and team effectiveness for virtual teams. . .Following others, [the authors] employ a multidimensional measure of virtuality to model three interactions with the relationship between intrateam trust and team effectiveness. By reviewing relevant team effectiveness, intrateam trust, and virtuality literature, [they] build a model of team effectiveness based on three dimensions of virtuality . . . A total of 230 subjects on 73 project teams were asked to record their interactions while working on a complex case assignment, allowing [the researchers] to measure the three dimensions of virtuality. . .Findings indicate that although Distance Virtuality and Member Virtuality moderate the relationship between intrateam trust and effectiveness, Time Worked Virtually does not, supporting the proposition that virtuality is a multidimensional construct. . .Differential findings support the multidimensional conceptualization of virtuality. [The authors] discuss several implications of [the] findings for virtual team managers, while paying attention to recent changes in team composition resulting from shelter-in-place orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lyn Gattis


Digital disinformation and the imaginative dimension of communication

Cabañes, J. V. A. (2020). Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 1077699020913799

“To nuance current understandings of the proliferation of digital disinformation, this article seeks to develop an approach that emphasizes the imaginative dimension of this communication phenomenon. Anchored on ideas about the sociality of communication, this piece conceptualizes how fake news and political trolling online work in relation to particular shared understandings people have of their socio-political landscape. It offers the possibility of expanding the information-oriented approach to communication taken by many journalistic interventions against digital disinformation. It particularly opens up alternatives to the problematic strategy of challenging social media manipulation solely by doubling down on objectivity and facts.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Generation Z workplace communication habits and expectations

Janssen, D., & Carradini, S. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(2), 137–153. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3069288

“People born between 1995 and 2012, referred to as Generation Z, grew up alongside significant technological advancements in communication. This cohort’s oldest members are now entering the workforce. . .Although the merits of generational research have been questioned, Generation Z’s personal communication preferences and habits demonstrate unprecedented technological experiences and expectations in the workplace.” To explore “Generation Z’s current habits in using smart technology, social media, and voice communication for personal communication,” Generation Z’s perspective on “the current workplace communication environment,” and the question of whether the “personal communication habits of Generation Z conflict with current workplaces,” the authors conducted “a 207-participant exploratory survey and 6 interviews with Generation Z members in January–March 2020. . .[The authors report that] [w]orking Generation Z respondents hold unexpected attitudes and behaviors, including awareness of the negatives of technology use, differences in personal preferences and professional behaviors, self-regulation of technology use, and concern for boundaries between personal and work life. . .Generation Z’s ability to adapt to current workplace norms may slow changes in workplace communication. Their awareness of disruptive communication habits could make positive changes to workplace communication in the future. Employers should resist negative generational stereotypes and develop new communication policies to reflect current and future-looking technology use. This study was completed prior to COVID-19 and does not include pandemic-related workplace technology changes.”

Lyn Gattis

Hypernegative interpretation of negatively perceived email at work

Sillars, A., Zorn, T.E. (August 2021). Management Communication Quarterly, 35(2), 171–200. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318920979828

As new work arrangements born of social distancing mean that more workplace communication is done via email, we may reconsider how emails are perceived.

This research found that receivers of emails often “perceived messages as more negative than the senders intended and certainly more negatively than uninvolved observers perceived them.” “Extensive commentary cautions about the consequences of poor email etiquette, including emotional miscommunication and conflict escalation at work. This research considers the role of the receiver in negative email exchanges. Participants identified examples of negatively perceived emails received from coworkers, provided the text of these emails, and reported their perceptions and accounts of the messages. . .Negative intensification bias occurred more in poor communication climates and among individuals in subordinate positions.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Organizational culture, discipline, and the politics of self: Transformation through responsive conversation

McClellan, J. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 152–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488420927775

“As organization and management scholars increasingly embrace organizations as social constructions, communication is more commonly recognized as the practice that creates, maintains, and changes organization. However, scholarship attending to organizational culture and identification often relies on unsophisticated perspectives of communication without much concern for power and the politics of language use. In this contribution, [the author] review[s] central ideas across four communicative perspectives for understanding and critiquing organization that complicate and reorient attention to organizational culture and identification. These perspectives direct attention toward meaning-making practices and social performances, the sociohistorical qualities of meaning and conflict suppression, tension-filled components of organization and the embodiment of meaning, and self-discipline and strategized self-subordination. Embracing the complexities offered in these communicative orientations, [the author] invite[s] scholars and practitioners to attend to responsive conversations about everyday experiences of organizational life to generate more mutually satisfying organizational cultures that celebrate diverse subjectivities at work.”

Katherine Wertz


Rhetorical hedonism and gray genres

Butts, J., & Walwema, J. (2021). Communication Design Quarterly, 9(2), 15–26. https://doi.org/10.1145/3453460.3453461

“As technical genres continue to grow and morph in promising new directions, [the authors] attempt an analysis of what are typically viewed as mundane genres. [They] use the term gray genres, which [they] find useful for interrogating texts that tend to fall in categories that tend toward a blandness that is invariably difficult to quantify. [The authors] use hedonism, along with a historical accounting for this value from its classical rhetorical lineage and run it up to contemporary applications,” positing “that playful stylistic choices—while typically discouraged in more technical spaces—actually improves the rhetorical canon of delivery for informative documents. [They] close with case studies that offer close readings of a few attempts at employing hedonistic tactics within typical gray genres.”

Lyn Gattis

Discourse communities

Communicatively managing multiple, intersecting identities among immigrant women entrepreneurs

Haseki, M., Scott, C., & Gailliard, B. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 282–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488420907139

“Immigrant women comprise one of the fastest growing groups of business owners in the United States and other urban economies; however, a greater proportion of immigrant women business owners shut down their business within a year compared with their nonimmigrant peers. In an attempt to address this challenge, the study reported here explores the communication strategies adopted by immigrant women entrepreneurs as they manage key identities (gender, ethnicity, religion, and immigrant status) that may influence their success. Drawing on a structurational model of multiple identities and linking that with intersectionality research, this study examines the experiences of 60 immigrant women entrepreneurs from 30 different countries in New York City as they (dis)connect with their various identities. In addition to insights about each separate identity, [the authors] identify three tensions at the intersection of multiple identities, business sector, and sociocultural and historical context: visible versus invisible, expressive versus silent, and revealing versus concealing. Furthermore, [the authors] show how strategic communication practices are adopted to negotiate these tensions, and hence secure and/or increase business opportunities and business survival.”

Katherine Wertz

Comparing international communication of corporate social responsibility by Chinese and Korean firms on social media

Yuan, S. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(2), 154–169. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3064409

“More and more multinational corporations (MNCs) based in East Asia are adopting international social media to communicate messages on corporate social responsibility (CSR), but little research has investigated their content qualitatively.” This study investigates the similarities and differences between Chinese and Korean CSR communication [CSRC]. The author “selected six Chinese companies and six Korean firms from the 2019 Forbes 2000 world’s-largest-corporations ranking, and analyzed the content of their English-language Facebook accounts using ‘Leximancer’, a powerful textual analysis software package. . .Results indicated that the CSR messages of Chinese and Korean firms resembled each other at a macrolevel but differed at a microlevel. In addition, the CSR messages of Chinese companies were more likely to reflect national strategic agendas, while Korean firms placed greater emphasis on short-term events and legal compliance. . .[The author concludes] Chinese and Korean corporations have adopted an approach of ‘global topics, native framing’ in their CSRCs to achieve a balance between internal and external legitimacy.”

Lyn Gattis

Complex personal stories and dominant cultural narratives in urban planning communication

Elliot, T.J. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 174–188, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1803988

“When an urban planning project is announced, local media outlets often focus on broadly describing the building or project. But how can we listen to and value the stories from people displaced by large-scale urban change? This article adopts a case-study approach to share complicated stories from four residents displaced by a redevelopment project and suggests technical communication approaches for productively placing stories from the displaced in dialogue with broader planning project stories.”

Rhonda Stanton

Why do people spread false information online? The effects of message and viewer characteristics on self-reported likelihood of sharing social media disinformation

Buchanan, T. (2020). PloS one, 15(10), e0239666.

“Individuals who encounter false information on social media may actively spread it further, by sharing or otherwise engaging with it. Much of the spread of disinformation can thus be attributed to human action. Four studies (total N = 2,634) explored the effect of message attributes (authoritativeness of source, consensus indicators), viewer characteristics (digital literacy, personality, and demographic variables) and their interaction (consistency between message and recipient beliefs) on self-reported likelihood of spreading examples of disinformation. Participants also reported whether they had shared real-world disinformation in the past. Reported likelihood of sharing was not influenced by authoritativeness of the source of the material, nor indicators of how many other people had previously engaged with it. Participants’ level of digital literacy had little effect on their responses. The people reporting the greatest likelihood of sharing disinformation were those who thought it likely to be true, or who had pre-existing attitudes consistent with it. They were likely to have previous familiarity with the materials. Across the four studies, personality (lower Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, higher Extraversion and Neuroticism) and demographic variables (male gender, lower age, and lower education) were weakly and inconsistently associated with self-reported likelihood of sharing. These findings have implications for strategies more or less likely to work in countering disinformation in social media.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Diversity and communication in virtual project teams

Varhelahti, M., & Turnquist, T. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(2), 201–214.

“Virtual teams, especially project teams, increasingly rely on computer-mediated communication for interaction when collaborating and completing their tasks. Team members represent various cultures, occupations, and industries. Virtual teams often use English as a business lingua franca in communication. This study investigates critical factors related to virtual project teams that influence computer-mediated communication,” specifically how “members of multidisciplinary and multicultural project teams” experience diversity in video meetings, and whether “differences in team members’ occupational or industrial backgrounds show in their opinions on video meetings.” The researchers used mixed methods “to analyze data obtained from 104 responses to an online survey. Spearman’s correlation coefficient and Kruskall-Wallis nonparametric tests were used for statistical analysis, and open comments were analyzed using thematic content analysis. . .The findings show that linguistic, cultural, and occupational diversity facilitates communication in virtual project team meetings. In addition, applying appropriate features of video meeting tools in different stages of project teamwork leads to better communication in virtual teams. A high level of English proficiency is not required, but clear communication rules are essential. In addition, some occupational or industry-specific differences in opinions on communication could be identified.”

Lyn Gattis


Editing by the book: Lessons from technical editing textbooks

Lang, T. (2020). AMWA Journal, 35(3), 115–121.

“Medical editors are not necessarily familiar with the conventions of technical editing in the physical sciences and engineering. The two traditions developed separately, and most medical editors learn their craft on the job, not through academic programs that might draw on a technical editing curriculum. Accordingly, to see what the technical editing literature could add to medical editing, I reviewed 31 books on the topic. These books were published between 1958 and 2019, 23 are more than 20 years old, and most were written for students in technical writing degree programs preparing for jobs in industry. Collectively, these books use 77 terms for different forms of editing, most of which can be classified as those related to editing content (what is said), presentation (how it is said), correctness (how properly it is said), or formatting (what it looks like). Other terms classify editing by the “level of edit,” by “degree of effort,” by stage in the publication process, or by requested turn-around time. Here, I review several points of interest from these books and propose 23 principles of editing for medical editors that address issues such as the goals of editing, whether to preserve the authors’ ‘voice’ or ‘style,’ editing procedures, common editing pitfalls, and professional advice. I close with a look at the range of opinions authors have held about editors, including the fact that, contrary to popular belief, most authors appreciate skilled, comprehensive editing.”

Edward A. Malone

The intentional search for meaning: Developing technical editing skills

Lang, T. (2020). European Science Editing, 46, 1–7. doi: 10.3897/ese.2020.e53691

“Because technical editing developed in the physical sciences and engineering, the term often refers only to editing in those fields. However, whereas technical editors in industry often enter the profession with degrees in technical communications, editors in other scientific fields typically receive little or no professional training in editing. Accordingly, I describe here four techniques proven to be effective in training technical editors in any branch of science. A basic technique involves applying 12 specific and evidence-based ‘edits’ that improve comprehension. In an intermediate technique, ‘structured editing,’ described here for the first time, editors follow a structured process of analysing and revising a text by completing four sequential tasks. An advanced technique—shortening a 250-word abstract to 100 words without losing content—will develop critical thinking and sharpen language skills. Finally, I describe a collaborative technique based on ‘deliberate practice,’ in which a small group of editors discusses a text in detail, in long sessions, over extended periods, to develop a high degree of skill.”

Edward A. Malone


Rhetorical body work: Professional embodiment in health provider education and the technical writing classroom

Campbell, L. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 157–173. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1804620

“This article introduces ‘rhetorical body work’ as a framework for understanding professional embodiment in health provider education and technical and professional communication (TPC) pedagogy. Using the case study of clinical nursing simulations and drawing on sociological theory, I provide a detailed analysis of three components of rhetorical body work as they manifest in three simulation scenarios: physical, emotional, and discursive. I conclude by considering the implications of these findings for the embodied teaching of TPC.”

Rhonda Stanton

Ethical issues

Maintaining the integrity of the scientific record: Corrections and best practices at The Lancet group

Cooper, A. N., & Dwyer, J. E. (2021). European Science Editing, 47, 1–3. https://doi: 10.3897/ese.2021.e62065

“A transparent corrections process is essential to assist in the maintenance of public confidence in scientific and medical research. In the era of preprints, fast-paced peer review, and early-access publication, errors and oversights from both authors and editors might be more common. The swift and open correction of the public record requires the participation of authors, journal editors, and publishers, and in this viewpoint, we share The Lancet group’s best practices around errors and corrections.

Maintaining the integrity of the scientific record: corrections and best practices at The Lancet group.”

Edward A. Malone

Health communication

Can interactive media attenuate psychological reactance to health messages? A study of the role played by user commenting and audience metrics in persuasion

Li, R. & Shyam Sundar, S. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2021.1888450

“Health advocacy messages can generate psychological reactance and lead to message rejection. Could we offset this negative outcome by providing more agency and interactivity to message receivers? Are individuals more likely to be receptive if health campaigns provided them an opportunity to comment on the advocacy messages? Will they be more likely to follow the advocated behavior if a lot of other receivers have expressed approval of those messages, i.e., will they follow the bandwagon and show lesser reactance? [The authors] investigated these questions by conducting a 2 (bandwagon cue: strong vs. weak) X 2 (comment action: presence vs. absence) X 2 (message threat: high vs. low) between-subjects experiment (N = 179) with an online health message. Findings suggest that strong bandwagon cues can reduce reactance and improve persuasion by eliciting bandwagon perceptions. Comment action is associated with a strong sense of agency, which positively predicts intention to follow the message recommendation. Technological affordances interact with threat level of the message and with each other in influencing users’ evaluation and acceptance of persuasive health messages.”

Walter Orr

Smart crowdsourcing in covid-19: Assisting Wuhan with mobility in lockdown

Ding, H. (2020). QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 7(3), 201–206. https://doi.org/10.14321/qed.7.3.0201

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, individual countries such as the United States and China witnessed an increasing use of self-organized smart crowdsourcing events to assist with public education and risk communication about the novel virus and the emerging pandemic. Professional organizations, business leaders, and governmental agencies led these endeavors as the seekers and worked with innovation intermediaries to broadcast the requests to networks of external experts via existing or new online platforms. This article focuses on the smart crowdsourcing projects taking place in Wuhan at the height of its COVID-19 outbreak in February and March 2020 to meet the transportation needs of medical workers (MCWs) and vulnerable populations when the entire city was locked down and all public transportation services stopped operation.”

Edward A. Malone

Information management

Why do some Americans resist COVID-19 prevention behavior? An analysis of issue importance, message fatigue, and reactance regarding COVID-19 messaging

Ball, H. & Wozniak, T.R. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2021.1920717

“Despite the rapid transmission of and death toll claimed by COVID-19, there is evidence of resistance toward behaviors shown to effectively prevent and slow the spread of the disease, such as mask wearing and social distancing. This study applies psychological reactance theory to examine COVID-19 message factors (e.g., message fatigue, issue importance) that may be linked to nonadherence to CDC recommendations via the experience of reactance. Participants (N = 268) were current U.S. residents over the age of 18 who completed an online survey about their perceptions of COVID-19 messaging in general as well as toward a specific COVID-19 message they recalled. Results of structural equation modeling indicated that perceived freedom threat toward a COVID-19 message was predicted positively by message fatigue and negatively by issue importance. Greater perceived freedom threat was linked to greater reactance, which in turn was associated with lower levels of adherence to hygiene- and social-related COVID-19 preventive behavior. Notably, the negative association between reactance and social-related adherence was stronger than that between reactance and hygiene-related adherence. Implications for the role of reactance in risk and crisis communication as well as for public health messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed.”

Walter Orr


The transformative paradigm: Equipping technical communication researchers for socially just work

Phelps, J. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 204–215. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1803412

“This article provides an overview of robust social justice work already done in technical and professional communication (TPC) to introduce the transformative paradigm, an action research framework articulated by Donna Mertens. Research articles in TPC offer examples of the axiological, ontological, epistemological, and methodological tenets of the transformative paradigm. Together with a measured discussion of the paradigm, this Methodologies and Approaches article responds to calls in TPC scholarship to articulate and practice methodologies resonant with the social justice turn.”

Rhonda Stanton

Intercultural communication

Co-constructing organizational identity and culture with those we serve: An ethnography of a transgender nonprofit organization communicating family identity and identification

Eger, E. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 254–281. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419893738

“In this article, [the author] theorize[s] how communication creates participants’ organizational identification with nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and their co-construction of organizational identities. Findings from [the author’s] 3-year organizational ethnography of an NPO serving transgender people, the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico (TGRC), showcase how Directors, staff, and ‘guests’ (those being served by the NPO) co-constructed a ‘family’ organizational identity and their subsequent organizational identification through communication. [The author’s] analysis reveals how TGRC’s shared cultural values, physical space, language, and artifacts both supported and shaped their family organizational identity. Ethnographic findings illustrate how TGRC participants constructed family through cultural elements including TGRC as a home space while simultaneously going beyond an organizational container to embrace discourses and texts to construct their identity.

[The author] end[s] with calls for future research on organizational culture, identity, and identification co-construction to include the people organizations serve and for more ethnographic and arts-based research to enrich such pursuits.”

Katherine Wertz

Examining the effects of internal communication and emotional culture on employees’ organizational identification

Yue, C. A., Men, L. R., & Ferguson, M. A. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 169–195. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488420914066

“As one of the first empirical attempts investigating the emerging role of positive emotional culture within organizations, the study examined how a symmetrical internal communication system and leaders’ use of motivating language contribute to fostering a positive emotional culture featured by joy, companionate love, pride, and gratitude. Furthermore, the study examined the linkage between a positive emotional culture and employees’ organizational identification. A quantitative online survey was conducted with 482 full-time employees in the United States. Results showed that both symmetrical internal communication and leaders’ use of motivating language, including meaning making, empathetic, and direction-giving languages, induced employees’ perception of a positive emotional culture of joy, companionate love, pride, and gratitude, which in turn enhanced employees’ organizational identification. Positive emotional culture fully mediated the impact of corporate and leadership communications on employee identification with the organization. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Helping me learn new things every day: The power of community college students’ writing across genres

Ahmed, T. (January 2021). Written Communication Quarterly, 38 (1), 31–76. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088320964766

“Although community colleges are important entry points into higher education for many American students, few studies have investigated how community college students engage with different genres or develop genre knowledge. Even fewer have connected students’ genre knowledge to their academic performance. The present article discusses how 104 ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse students reported on classroom genre experiences and wrote stories about college across three narrative genres (Letter, Best Experience, Worst Experience). Findings suggest that students’ engagement with classroom genres in community college helped them develop rhetorical reading and writing skills. When students wrote about their college lives across narrative genres, they reflected on higher education in varied ways to achieve differing sociocultural goals with distinct audiences. Finally, students’ experience with classroom and narrative genres predicted their GPA, implying that students’ genre knowledge signals and influences their academic success. These findings demonstrate how diverse students attending community college can use genres as resources to further their social and academic development.”

Diana Fox Bentele


“Going to lunch”: The role of catch phrases and language in constructing a heteronormative leadership culture

Mungaray, K., & Curtin, N. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 196–220. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419866899.

“This study examines raw focus group data from a previous case study that demonstrated the existence of a heteronormative leadership paradigm, personified in the heteronormative ideal leader who is strong, agentic, charismatic, and typically white and male. The current study corroborated the findings from the previous case study, which contributes to even more profound meaning for the current study’s conclusions. For this study, the second author independently analyzed the data using a methodology that combines elements of discourse analysis and conversation analysis to identify what organizational cultural and identity messages are communicated by focus group participants. Through this methodological framework, the researchers found that catch phrases and language were used to construct personal and organizational identities integral to a heteronormative leadership culture despite the organization’s stated and intended dedication to being a ‘pro-woman’ firm.”

Katherine Wertz

Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? Investigating “inclusive” practices in rhetoric and technical communication job descriptions

Walwema, J. & Carmichael, F.A. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 107–122, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1829072

“This paper studies the language of job descriptions in rhetoric and technical and professional communication to explore how this language might be exclusionary of international scholars. Through critical discourse analysis, we reviewed current U.S. labor and immigration laws and contrasted those laws with the language of hiring documents. We found that hiring documents do not always align with U.S. labor and immigration laws and consequently hinder the hiring prospects of international scholars.”

Rhonda Stanton


Leader communication and follower identity: How leader motivating language shapes organizational identification through cultural knowledge and fit

Mayfield, M., Mayfield, J., & Walker, R. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 221–253. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488420979285

“This study examines the links between leader communication (as conceptualized through motivating language) and follower organizational identification as mediated by follower cultural knowledge and fit. Results show that motivating language has a positive and strong effect on follower organizational identification with a one standard deviation increase in motivating language corresponding to over a half of a standard deviation increase in follower organizational identification. This influence comes partly through growth in a follower’s cultural knowledge and fit, but also through a direct influence. Model testing occurred with subjects from the United States and India with the model fitting equally well in both nations. These findings have important implications for research and practice which are explained in the paper’s discussion and conclusion section.”

Katherine Wertz

Leadership communication in the STEM workplace: A qualitative study

Koerber, A., Provencher, J., & Starkey, J. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 123–142, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1794047

“As the need for more attention to leadership in the STEM professions has become apparent, it has also become clear that much remains unknown about this subject. To explore how communication scholars might contribute to these scholarly conversations, the interview results presented in this article reveal some of the ways in which effective communication might enable STEM professionals to achieve leadership orientations identified in previous research.”

Rhonda Stanton

Political discourse

Resilience to online disinformation: A framework for cross-national comparative research

Humprecht, E., Esser, F., & Van Aelst, P. (2020). The International Journal of Press/Politics, 1940161219900126

“Online disinformation is considered a major challenge for modern democracies. It is widely understood as misleading content produced to generate profits, pursue political goals, or maliciously deceive. Our starting point is the assumption that some countries are more resilient to online disinformation than others. To understand what conditions influence this resilience, we choose a comparative cross-national approach. In the first step, we develop a theoretical framework that presents these country conditions as theoretical dimensions. In the second step, we translate the dimensions into quantifiable indicators that allow us to measure their significance on a comparative cross-country basis. In the third part of the study, we empirically examine 18 Western democracies. A cluster analysis yields three country groups: one group with high resilience to online disinformation (including the Northern European systems, for instance) and two country groups with low resilience (including the polarized Southern European countries and the United States). In the final part, we discuss the heuristic value of the framework for comparative political communication research in the age of information pollution.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Public relations

Discursive communication strategies for introducing innovative products: The content, cohesion, and coherence of product launch presentations

Zhang, H., Song, Y., Wei, Y., & Liu, J. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(3), 369–400. https://doi.org/10.1177/10506519211001123

“In the information age, discourse plays an increasingly important role in promoting innovative products. But how language works in the innovation process remains underexplored. This study explores the discursive communication strategies used to introduce innovation by analyzing the content, cohesion, and coherence of product launch presentations by Steve Jobs. It reveals that such discursive communication strategies improve the audience’s understanding, recognition, and acceptance of innovative products. This study contributes to both business communication studies in general and research on innovation communication in product launches in particular.”

Sean C. Herring


Conceptualizing empathy competence: A professional communication perspective

Fuller, M., Kamans, E., van Vuuren, M., & et al. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(3), 333–368. https://doi.org/10.1177/10506519211001125

“Empathy competence is considered a key aspect of excellent performance in communication professions. But we lack an overview of the specific knowledge, attitudes, and skills required to develop such competence in professional communication. Through interviews with 35 seasoned communication professionals, this article explores the role and nature of empathy competence in professional interactions. The analysis resulted in a framework that details the skills, knowledge, and attitudinal aspects of empathy; distinguishes five actions through which empathy manifests itself; and sketches relationships of empathy with several auxiliary factors. The framework can be used for professional development, recruitment, and the design of communication education programs.”

Sean C. Herring

Scientific writing

Identifying multidisciplinary metrics to analyze NASA case studies

Palma, G., Mesmer, B., Guerin, A., & Weger, K. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(2), 170–184. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3064394

“Communication is fundamental to the success of engineered systems, enabling interactions between the system’s stakeholders. Systems engineering, an integrative discipline on which the contributions of many disciplines are evaluated against each other, may particularly benefit from research in communication methods. Specifically, storytelling may be beneficial to engineers because it enables sense-making. Research into storytelling is conducted to identify storytelling metrics that could be useful in engineering communication, specifically engineering case studies. . .[In this study] [12] interdisciplinary metrics from storytelling, content analysis, and engineering are identified from the literature and used to characterize a collection of 48 NASA case studies. The values of the metrics for each case study are determined and analyzed using statistical and content analyses. . .Analysis of the 12 metrics indicates that the case study design region with a historical backstory structure, climactic plot structure, and early points of attack is most frequently used by designers. . .The analysis indicates that certain storytelling elements applied in engineering case studies are used more frequently. Further work is needed to leverage the metrics as design variables in engineering case study writing.”

Lyn Gattis


Putting yourself into your work: Expression of visual meaning in student technical writing

Parkinson, J., Mackay, J., & Demecheleer, M. (2020). Visual Communication, 19(2), 281–306. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357218784323

“Students in technical fields use visual as well as verbal modes to express their meaning, employing ways of expressing meaning that are useful later in their professional lives. This study investigates visual meaning in student Builders’ Diaries, journals that are written by carpentry trainees to provide a record of their learning. In professional carpentry practice, Diaries function as a record of building work and are used in planning, billing and record-keeping. For this study, a corpus of 43 Builders’ Diaries, written by apprentices working in industry and by trainees in an educational institution, were analyzed. Findings reveal the role of visual meaning in the Builders’ Diary in developing the professional identity of the students. Compositional regularities were found, including regularities in image—image and image—text relations. These regularities suggest the extent to which our participants, who have no formal training in design, participate in culturally shared understandings of visual meaning.”

Edward A. Malone

Ridicule, technical communication, and nineteenth-century women performing college math

Fiss, A. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 143–156. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1803989

“This article examines how nineteenth-century participants in technical and professional communication (TPC) used rhetorical techniques of ridicule to critique audiences’ assumptions and advocate for expanded educational opportunities. Encouraging laughter ostensibly about college mathematics, Vassar students drew on their knowledge of rhetoric and higher education to disrupt audience expectations regarding the gendered identities of mathematician and college student. Using a case study, this article broadly urges the development of the role of humor as a technique in TPC.”

Rhonda Stanton


A machine learning algorithm for sorting online comments via topic modeling

Zhu, J., Wickes, E., & Gallagher, J. R. (2021). Communication Design Quarterly, 9(2), 4–14. https://doi.org/10.1145/3453460.3453462

“This article uses a machine learning algorithm to demonstrate a proof-of-concept case for moderating and managing online comments as a form of content moderation, which is an emerging area of interest for technical and professional communication (TPC) researchers. The algorithm sorts comments by topical similarity to a reference comment/article rather than display comments by linear time and popularity.

This approach has the practical benefit of enabling TPC researchers to reconceptualize content display systems in dynamic ways.”

Lyn Gattis

Usability studies

New engineers’ transfer of communication activities from school to work

Ford, J. D., Paretti, M., Kotys-Schwartz, D., Howe, S., & Ott, R. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(2), 105–120. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3065854

“Communication is critical to engineering work, and despite its emphasis within engineering education, it is still noted as a gap in new engineers’ preparedness for work. . .Few studies have extensively examined transitions between academic and professional engineering contexts. Work remains for understanding how new engineers transfer communication skills.” Using ‘thematic analysis of data from weekly reflections and regular semistructured interviews conducted during new engineers’ first year of work,’ the authors investigate ways ‘new engineers transfer communication practices from school to work’ and the challenges ‘new engineers experience in moving from communication as practiced at school to communication as practiced at work.’ Although ‘the complexity and situated nature of communication in the workplace cannot be fully replicated in the classroom’ the authors conclude that ‘students can be made more fully aware of the embedded nature of communication activities.’

Moreover, engineering educators can simulate aspects of the workplace in capstone courses, and companies can provide guidance to help mentor new engineers through the inevitable context gaps.”

Lyn Gattis

User experience

Interactivity can enhance the effectiveness of threat appeals: Implications for preventive health websites

Nah, S. & Oh, J. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2021.1937831

“Interactive health websites where threat appeals are incorporated have become a popular strategy to engage users in preventive health behaviors. The current study examines how website interactivity enhances the effectiveness of threat appeals and thus encourages preventive health behaviors in the context of an anti-sugar campaign. A single factor design experiment (N = 109) with two conditions (high vs. low interactivity) was employed to investigate the effects of website interactivity on sugar control intentions. The results demonstrated that higher interactivity elicited greater fear and disgust, which then subsequently increased perceived threats of sugar intake. Perceived threats heightened by interactivity led to greater preventive behavioral intentions. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.”

Walter Orr


Genre change in the online context: Responding to negative online reviews and redefining an effective genre construct on Amazon.com

Wang, J. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(3), 297–332. https://doi.org/10.1177/10506519211001113

“This study examines 50 business responses to negative reviews on Amazon.com in order to identify common genre moves for responding to negative online reviews. To complement the genre analysis and assess the effectiveness of these common genre moves, the author conducted a survey seeking consumers’ feedback on three typical business responses to negative online reviews. This investigation not only provides feedback on how businesses can publicly respond to negative online reviews but also presents an empirical case on how we can balance genre stability and variation and go beyond just teaching typified genre features in our genre pedagogy.”

Sean C. Herring