Archive for the ‘Business writing’ Category

The New (Media) Accident Report

In Business writing, New media, Technical communication on May 26, 2013 at 1:03 am

In the wake of accidents and catastrophes, there is a vacuum waiting to be filled with facts (or rumors). At least, there used to be a vacuum. That’s because there used to be weeks or even months between an accident and the release of the official report.

But things are changing.

From Briefing to Tweeting

The Mount Vernon (Skagit River) Bridge Collapse provides a glimpse of that change.

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman held an initial briefing May 24 regarding the bridge’s collapse, followed by a second briefing on May 25. Videos of the briefings are available on the NTSB’s YouTube channel.

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman briefed the media

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman briefed the media

Those types of briefings aren’t unusual. But look what happens when quotes from a briefing are distributed via the NTSB Twitter account. Read the rest of this entry »


Lost in Transcription?

In Business writing, Technical communication on February 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

What are we really capturing/documenting in accident reports? What is lost when statements and interviews are summarized in reports?

Take, for example, the following excerpt from an official police document meant to record narratives of a paper mill explosion that killed one employee and injured several others:

Police report summary of witness statement

Police report summary of witness statement

While narratives such as this are important elements of fact-finding research, the way in which they are written down “may inadvertently silence or render invisible the kinds of information that decision makers need to assess” accidents and make recommendations to prevent future disasters (to quote Beverly Sauer, who wrote about mining risks, see p 5 in “Rhetoric of Risk”).

The remainder of this blog post explores one surprising approach to improving the depth and accuracy of accident reports that include statements made by victims and witnesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Worry…Tweet Happy

In Business writing, New media on July 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Before the Olympics even start, Greek Olympian Voula Papachristou is out of the games. Papachristou was removed from her country’s Olympic team. Why? Because she tweeted a racial joke using her personal Twitter account. Papachristou apologized, but the damage had been done. The Greek Olympic Committee stated that Papachristou was “placed outside the Olympic team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.”Image

That’s not the first time an offensive tweet has ended badly for a person or business. Remember the Motor City tweet by Chrysler last year? Read the rest of this entry »

Oops and Oy

In Apologetic rhetoric, Business writing, Rhetorical analysis on May 12, 2012 at 1:57 am

I’m a fan of Kiva. As a lender, I receive occasional emails from Kiva. Recently, they made a mistake. It wasn’t a big mistake, just a coding error in an email that caused some coding to display in the text. It turns out, the email was a test that was unintentionally sent. Soon after, Kiva sent another email, an apology email.


Let me start by saying that sending an apology email was a nice step. First, it helped ease any fears that recipients may have had (after all, people tend to worry when anything seems out of the ordinary in emails regarding financial matters). Second, it shows that the company takes its responsibility seriously and is transparent about issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Self-Reflective Warnings

In Business writing, Technical communication on May 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best practices and ethics of warnings. You see, the problem with most warnings is that they’re informational. That means they don’t connect with the reader and may end up reducing effectiveness by over-exposure. This can be the case even when the wording of the warning is intended to shock the reader into submission, such as the tobacco warnings in the UK:


Read the rest of this entry »