Posted in Discussion Questions

J. Blake Scott- Ethics in Technical Writing

In this piece, Scott explores the issue of ethics in professional and technical writing. It follows an anecdote about a writer, Angie, who is supposed to make a webpage for a new form of a flu vaccination. However, the company is wanting Angie to make claims she knows are not necessarily true. On the other hand, this is a very large potential client that would really help her company begin to make a name for themselves. Angie is stuck between the two decisions and contemplating the possible repercussions.

Although this is a fairly simple example with a clear right and wrong (at least in my opinion), I think we can appreciate the ethical decision Scott is trying to portray. He also discussed the use of phronesis meaning practical wisdom. I feel that this is very important in technical writing. Technical pieces should be clear and concise and phronesis allows the author to accomplish this.

Another major theme was that of nomoi meaning the social norms. Ethics plays a large role in developing nomoi as a society develops rights and wrongs in law. It is also in the author’s best interest to stick with the established nomoi as they tend to stay static.

For me, ethics plays a large role in my day to day work, not only from a legal standpoint where I am held to a specific code of conduct by a license but also from a moral standpoint. As far as writing goes, there is not as much ethical writing in my field. Some of this could be applied to keeping records or writing academic papers but it is mostly applied in the way we conduct ourselves.

Discussion questions:

  1. How does this piece change your definition of rhetoric?
  2. How do you see applications of these principles in your field? Especially if your field is not in professional or technical writing.



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