A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Annual Report Graphic Use: A Review of the Literature   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Corporate annual reports typically include a narrative section and a financial section. The narrative section is not scrutinized by auditors as the financial section is, yet many readers rely heavily on its graphs to estimate the firm's financial situation. However, the graphs often misrepresent the financial data. To better understand annual report graphs' important role, this article examines more than 25 years of literature related to these four areas: (a) the ways financial graphs are prepared, used, and misinterpreted; (b) differences by country; (c) regulatory influences for accountants; and (d) the parts formatting and media selection decisions play in communication interpretation and persuasion. Across the literature, the author notes consensus that annual report graphs are widely used in many countries and that there is rampant disregard for the guidelines for their accurate, non-misleading presentation. The article concludes with seven proposed directions for future research.

Penrose, John M. JBC (2008). Design>Document Design>Business Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Review: Beautiful Evidence   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Beautiful Evidence is Edward Tufte's fourth and latest book and both follows and diverges from the directions established with The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Tufte, 1983), Envisioning Information (Tufte, 1990), and Visual Explanations (Tufte, 1997). Visual Display examined pictures of numbers, Envisioning explored pictures of nouns, and Visual Explanations addressed pictures of verbs. Beautiful Evidence foregoes the 'pictures of' approach and instead establishes the role of evidence as the foundation of reasoning. In some ways, this latest book might have been better positioned as the first book because of its efforts to explain interplays of understanding and reasoning.

Penrose, John M. JBC (2007). Articles>Reviews>Graphic Design>Usability


Beyond Persuasion: The Rhetoric of Negotiation in Business Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This essay describes and provides a rationale for the Rhetoric of Negotiation as a useful frame for what is typically considered persuasion in business communication. It argues for a broader understanding of the opposition and draws from Eckhouse’s work on business communication as a competitive activity as well as Booth’s concept of Win-Rhetoric versus Listening-Rhetoric. Using illustrations from the author’s previous research, this commentary proposes that the Rhetoric of Negotiation is useful in business communication for both ethical and practical reasons.

King, Cynthia L. JBC (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Rhetoric


Beyond Taxonomies of Influence: "Doing" Influence and Making Decisions in Management Team Meetings   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies of influence in organizational settings have tended to concentrate on defining categories of influence based on self-reports and questionnaires. This has tended to decontextualize and generalize the findings and therefore overlooks the inevitably temporally and locally situated nature of all social activity. Using conversation analysis as a methodology and videotaped data of naturally occurring talk, this article seeks to go beyond such taxonomies of influence. More specifically, this article seeks to provide a fine-grained analysis of how subordinates, as well as superiors, can influence decision-making episodes of talk. It is also argued that the results of such research can be fed back into practice and ultimately can be of help in allowing better decision-making practices.

Clifton, Jonathan. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Organizational Communication


Breaking the Chain of Command: Making Sense of Employee Circumvention   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study explores how employees accounted for their engagement in circumvention (i.e., dissenting by going around or above one's supervisor). Employees completed a survey instrument in which they provided a dissent account detailing a time when they chose to practice circumvention. Results indicated that employees accounted for circumvention through supervisor inaction, supervisor performance, and supervisor indiscretion. In addition, findings revealed how employees framed circumvention in ways that enhanced the severity and principled nature of the issues about which they chose to dissent.

Kassing, Jeffrey W. JBC (2009). Articles>Management>Workplace>Ethnographies


The Central Role of Communication in Developing Trust and Its Effect On Employee Involvement   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Communication plays an important role in the development of trust within an organization. While a number of researchers have studied the relationship of trust and communication, little is known about the specific linkages among quality of information, quantity of information, openness, trust, and outcomes such as employee involvement. This study tests these relationships using communication audit data from 218 employees in the oil industry. Using mediation analysis and structural equation modeling, we found that quality of information predicted trust of one's coworkers and supervisors while adequacy of information predicted one's trust of top management. Trust of coworkers, supervisors, and top management influenced perceptions of organizational openness, which in turn influenced employees' ratings of their own level of involvement in the organization's goals. This study suggests that the relationship between communication and trust is complex, and that simple strategies focusing on either quality or quantity of information may be ineffective for dealing with all members in an organization.

Thomas, Gail Fann, Roxanne Zolin and Jackie L. Hartman. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management


CEOs' Hybrid Speeches: Business Communication Staples   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Closely examining a number of contemporary speeches given by CEOs, this study highlights differentiating features of two business speech genres that together account for a large number of corporate speeches. These genres, which are exemplified by speeches given at events such as industry conferences or company ceremonies, are unlike other business speech genres in that they pursue two main communication ends at once. They take on an assignment set by the speaking occasion while simultaneously pursuing the speaker's commercial objective. CEO speakers construct the hybrid speeches of these two genres by drawing on and modifying single-purpose speech types regularly used today both in business and in other sectors. Recognizing the dual communication purpose of hybrid speeches is critical for understanding their unusual structures and for developing appropriate standards to evaluate them.

Thro, A. Brooker. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management


Changing Uses of Technology: Crisis Communication Responses in a Faculty Strike   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This case study of a faculty strike examines the crisis response strategies of a university and its faculty union and the changing uses of technology to communicate to key stakeholders. An analysis of the types of crisis response strategies reveals that both the university and the faculty union used defensive and ingratiation strategies to build their cases and protect their reputations. The university also used denial to argue that the strike was not disrupting operations. The university and the union both relied on e-mails, Web sites, and press releases to update their constituencies. The difference was that for the union in particular, technology both expanded the options for sending information and accelerated the flow of information when conditions changed. The case study illustrates that technology has diminished an organization's control of crisis communication by opening numerous communication channels for others to use to explain their positions and build support.

Vielhaber, Mary E. and John L. Waltman. JBC (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Email


Cognitive Organization and Identity Maintenance in Multicultural Teams: A Discourse Analysis of Decision-Making Meetings   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Measuring culture is a central issue in international management research and has been traditionally accomplished using indices of cultural values. Although a number of researchers have attempted to identify measures to account for the core elements of culture, there is no consensus on those measures. This article uses an alternative method—discourse analysis—to observe what actually occurs in terms of communication practices in intercultural decision-making meetings, specifically those involving U.S.-born native English speakers and participants from East Asian countries. Previous discourse studies in this area suggest that differences in communication practices may be attributed to power differentials or language competence. Our findings suggest that the conversation style differences we observed might be attributed to intergroup identity issues instead.

Aritz, Jolanta and Robyn C. Walker. JBC (2010). Articles>Management>Collaboration>Planning


Collective Form: An Exploration of Large-Group Writing 1998 (Outstanding Researcher Lecture)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Whether a collective mind forms in large-group writing in the workplace is the focus of this article originally given as the 1998 ABC Outstanding Researcher Lec ture. This article is based on a five-year ethnographic study that describes and analyzes a three-month group writing process that created a computer service-level agreement, involving a 20-person cross-functional core more than 100 other collab orators at a major corporation. The article discusses "collective form" in two senses: First, a document's evolving form or superstructure produced a collective schema that allowed the group through a process of equilibration (Piaget, 1981) to adapt outsider boilerplate into a more situated general model and then into a sit uated document. Second, architectural forms motivated and molded group activity in several ways. To combat group apathy, the leaders appropriated an in-demand meeting room for the project, positioning the project as high-status in the center of the workflow. Group leaders prominently displayed a task completion check-off chart that, in a downsizing environment, helped both to coordinate group activity and to encourage completion.

Cross, Geoffrey A. JBC (2000). Articles>Collaboration>Ethnographies>Cognitive Psychology


Communicating Corporate Ethos on the Web: The Self-Presentation of Public Relations Agencies   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This research examines credibility in the discourse offered on the corporate Web sites of 60 British, Danish, and Norwegian public relations (PR) agencies. This study’s purpose was to see whether the North European PR industry moves in the direction of convergence or divergence in their corporate self-presentations. The authors have done this by unfolding the rhetoric and language of PR agencies Web sites. In this process, this study tried to determine whether the rhetorical strategies they use to achieve credibility show signs across the industry of becoming more focused on the responsibilities, enthusiasm, and caring nature of corporations and less directed at communicating expertise. Thus, the study expected to show whether PR agencies seek to build credibility by way of much the same rhetorical strategies and language, or whether they pursue different strategies in trying to build unique images. In analyzing the data, it is found that PR agencies across the three countries assign similar relative importance to expertise, trustworthiness, and empathy, and interestingly also that they strongly prioritize explaining their expertise at the expense of expressing their empathy for clients. To begin to understand this reluctance toward incorporating empathy in discourse, the authors investigate the linguistic representation of this one central dimension to explain its complexity and to point to the potential of an untapped resource for strategically managing self-presentation in business communication.

Isaksson, Maria and Poul Erik Flyvholm Jørgensen. JBC (2010). Articles>Web Design>Business Communication>Public Relations


Considering Bias in Government Audit Reports: Factors That Influence the Judgments of Internal Government Auditors   (members only)

Government auditors collect data and assess, via written reports, the operations of a government; however, little is known about what can affect and govern their representations of those operations. This analysis examines research studies about author bias and government audit manuals in order to understand how government auditors' neutrality is threatened. While bias may be an overt function of preferential or prejudicial thoughts, most sources of bias that influence auditors derive from less explicit sources including prior expectations, media coverage, nondiagnostic information, and other significantly less direct channels. To determine how government guidelines address this issue for their auditors, the principle audit manuals for Canada and the United States were reviewed for their references to bias, impartiality, and objectivity. Neither manual provides a significant amount of guidance to assist auditors in addressing the problems of bias in data collection, interpretation, and representation. If bias is to be reduced in audit reports, more must be done.

Palmer, Laura A. JBC (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Government>Reports


A Content Analysis Investigating Relationships Between Communication and Business Continuity Planning   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study provides an exploratory content analysis of business continuity planning (BCP) literature. The researchers systematically sampled multiple databases and codified artifacts using a set of variables developed by the research team. Based on the analysis, arguments are presented concerning the nature of BCP, the state of the BCP literature, and the nature of the conversations taking place in regard to BCP among academics, government/legal institutions, the media, and trade industries. Finally, the researchers demonstrate gaps in the current knowledge on BCP and suggest future directions for applied and theoretical research.

Adkins, Gabriel L., Tyler J. Thornton and Kevin Blake. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management


Corporate Risk Reporting: A Content Analysis of Narrative Risk Disclosures in Prospectuses   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study examines whether companies report risk-relevant information to prospective investors. While corporate risk communication is important for the well-functioning of capital markets, our current understanding of risk reporting practices is limited. The sample consists of Dutch companies raising capital on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in the late 1990s. In this setting, companies had much discretion in writing the risk section of the prospectus. After a detailed content analysis of the risk sections, the author demonstrates that a measure of risk extracted from these texts successfully predicts the volatility of companies' future stock prices, the sensitivity of future stock prices to market-wide fluctuations, as well as severe declines in future stock prices. Overall, these results support the view that prospectuses of Dutch companies provide adequate information about material investment risks.

Deumes, Rogier. JBC (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Financial>Risk Communication


Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting in South Africa: A Descriptive and Comparative Analysis   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this article, the authors compare the corporate social responsibility reporting (CSRR) of companies" environment, human relations, community, human rights, and diversity dimensions"in the emerging market economy of South Africa with that of companies in the leading economies represented by the Fortune Global 100. The descriptive analysis extends earlier empirical work on the CSRR of emerging market economies, and the impact of culture on CSRR, by examining annual report data from the top 100 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Index and the Fortune Global 100. Generally, the frequency and level of CSRR in South African companies was significantly higher than that of the Fortune Global 100, which indicates a greater willingness to convey social responsibility in their disclosure practices. This lends credence to the notion that emerging market economies may be more receptive to stakeholder concerns and social responsibility than peer institutions in leading economies.

Dawkins, Cedric and Faith Wambura Ngunjiri. JBC (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Marketing>Africa


A Descriptive Account of the Investor Relations Profession: A National Study   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Despite being a practice of vital importance for corporations, investor relations commands little attention in scholarly research. The studies of investor relations from a strategic communication standpoint are almost nonexistent in the United States. At the same time, investor relations today is undergoing a major shift from financial reporting to building and maintaining relationships with shareholders. The article reviews literature to define the current body of knowledge and state of research in investor relations. Then, the article reports on a survey of Fortune 500 companies to identify major investor relations practices at corporations: investor relations activities, their target audiences, their place in organizational structure, the education of investor relations officers, and what problems investor relations officers face.

Laskin, Alexander V. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication


Review: Discourse, Ideology and Specialized Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This book is a collection of articles brought together from the 1st conference on 'Discourse, Ideology, and Ethics in Specialized Communication,' which was held in Milan in 2004. While the book's central theme covers the relationship between discourse and ideology within the field of specialized communication, the individual articles are extremely diverse. The articles presented here deal with data drawn from fields as far apart as political speeches and testimony, medical interaction, academic writing, and the Talmud.

Clifton, Jonathan. JBC (2010). Articles>Reviews


Do Their Words Really Matter? Thematic Analysis of U.S. and Latin American CEO Letters   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study compares the annual report letters written by the CEOs of 30 U.S.-based companies and 24 Latin American—based companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Using a grounded theory approach, the authors thematically analyzed both sets of letters to ascertain common topics, stylistic (writing) features, and embedded cultural attributes. They found that although both sets of letters share much regulatory and financial information, the Latin American letters are characterized by a richer mix of topics, a more complex writing style, and evidence of cultural dimensions as conceptualized by the research of scholars such as Geert Hofstede and Edward T. Hall. Their work is founded on the belief that corporate documents exist to communicate more than factual information to their constituencies. Rather, the purpose of corporate writers is to influence public opinion and attitudes, particularly among potential investors, in ways that create support for organizational practices or undermine opposition to them.

Conaway, Roger N. and William J. Wardrope. JBC (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Rhetoric


Economic Crises and Financial Disasters: The Role of Business Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In the wake of global economic crisis, some of those responsible were summoned to testify under oath before Congressional committees to explain to the public what went wrong. What they said opened a window onto the thought processes and communication abilities of major business leaders. Many of them denied responsibility, failed to explain what occurred, and undermined their own credibility; as a result they were pilloried by Congress and the media. But how are these people connected to those of us who teach and do research in business communication? Unfortunately, these are our alumni, our former students.

Jameson, Daphne A. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Financial>Education


Review: The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information, by Richard A. Lanham   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This is a clever, witty, and engaging--if at times frustrating--book. The central thesis is that in our information age, made possible by digital technology, the scarce commodity to be allocated (and thus a matter of economics) is not 'stuff,' broadly defined as what you can kick or the information based on such stuff (also, stuff). We're drowning in stuff. Instead, it's attention that's scarce, and allocating attention is a matter of style, of rhetoric.

Andrews, Deborah C. JBC (2007). Articles>Reviews>Rhetoric


The Effects of Supervisors' Verbal Aggressiveness and Mentoring on Their Subordinates   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study examined the association between supervisors' mentoring and verbal aggression and their subordinates' perceived communication satisfaction, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. The findings of the 200 full-time working adults who participated in the study supported prior research indicating positive relationships between mentoring behaviors by supervisors and their subordinates' communication satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction, and negative relationships between supervisors' verbal aggression and their subordinates' communication satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction. Results of a regression analysis indicated that supervisors' verbal aggression was a greater negative predictor of subordinates' outcomes than was mentoring a positive predictor, supporting the presence of a negativity bias in the supervisor-subordinate relationship. Additionally, path analysis indicated that communication satisfaction fully mediated the relationship between supervisor mentoring and subordinate organizational commitment, whereas communication satisfaction served as a suppressor between mentoring and subordinate job satisfaction.

Madlock, Paul E. and Carrie Kennedy-Lightsey. JBC (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Organizational Communication


Emotions in Organizations: Joint Laughter in Workplace Meetings    (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Humor and laughter are emotion-involving activities that can be jointly constructed in interaction. This article analyzes instances of joint laughter in leader-member meetings where laughter may or may not be associated with humor. The method applied is conversation analysis in which the focus lies on laughter's role in the microlevel organization of interaction. The results show that the instances of laughter do not occur in accidental locations but are clearly connected to specific activities. First, humor and laughter can be strategically used by team leaders to create collegiality and a good working atmosphere in their teams. Second, laughing together is connected to closing down a topic or a phase in a meeting in a way that displays mutual understanding. Third, shared laughter initiated by team members appears to be a resource that can be used to reduce tension in challenging situations such as the accomplishment of difficult tasks or the treatment of delicate topics. Finally, laughing together can be used to do remedial work in problematic or conflicting situations. Ultimately, joint laughter appears to be a resource that can be used to improve the task performance and, through this, the achievement of the goals of the organization.

Kangasharju, Helena and Tuija Nikko. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication>Emotions


English or a Local Language in Advertising? The Appreciation of Easy and Difficult English Slogans in the Netherlands   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies have demonstrated frequent use of English in international advertising, but little is known about people’s preference for English versus local languages. This article empirically investigated the difficulty of the English language as a possible determinant of people’s preference for English or the local language. In an experiment, Dutch participants judged a number of car ads with English slogans that were pretested as easy or difficult to understand. They were subsequently asked to express a preference for either the English slogan or the Dutch equivalent. Results showed that easy-to-understand English slogans were appreciated better than difficult-to-understand English slogans. Moreover, the degree of difficulty in comprehension of the English slogans affected participants’ preference for English. English was preferred to Dutch when it was easy to understand; when it was difficult to understand, English was appreciated as much as the Dutch equivalent. In conclusion, the experiment provides empirical support for the role of comprehension in the preference for and appreciation of English in international advertising.

Hornikx, Jos, Frank van Meurs and Anja de Boer. JBC (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Localization>Netherlands


Exit, Voice, and Sensemaking Following Psychological Contract Violations: Women's Responses to Career Advancement Barriers   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Much of the theory guiding career development research is grounded in studies of men's careers in professional positions. In addition to largely ignoring the career experiences of women, the career literature pays little attention to overcoming barriers to career advancement in organizations—a challenge many women and men both face over the course of their career development. Using survey data, analyses of in-depth interviews, and a focus group discussion with female executives in the high-tech industry, this study finds variations of three responses: exit, voice, and rationalizing to remain are used by women in response to career barriers. These responses form the foundation of a career barrier sensemaking and response framework presented in the study. Findings indicate that perceived organizational sanctioning of career barriers and the organization's commitment to the career advancement of other women also influence participants' responses to barriers and their strategies for sensemaking, respectively.

Hamel, Stephanie A. JBC (2009). Careers>Business Communication>Collaboration>Gender


Genre Patterns in Language-Based Communication Zones   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article modifies and elaborates the language-based communication zones model. The authors distinguish between potential zones and activated zones, add MegaZone Two and MegaZone Three to the model, define language competency more completely and precisely, and identify three types of genre patterns (i.e., professional genre, commercial genre, and relational genre). Concentrating on the language patterns in the direct channels of language-based communication zones, they focus on determining the language competencies required to communicate directly in different communication situations and about different communication tasks. Professional, commercial, and relational genre patterns in Zone One, MegaZone Two, and MegaZone Three are identified and described. Research-based examples are included to illustrate the genre patterns.

Du-Babcock, Bertha and Richard D. Babcock. JBC (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Genre



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