Business Comm research

            I found Suchan and Dulek’s article to be fascinating.  I am sending a copy of it to a friend of mine who teaches tech writing at home in Abilene, Texas.  I appreciated the fact that the business comm instructors didn’t like the writing, while the org behavior people did.  That reminds us that even being educated (like Courtis and his readability formulas talked about) is insufficient sometimes.  I am keeping this article to teach with.  If I ever teach writing again, I am going to use the navy memo as a counter to the three mile island.  That memo didn’t work because it was to be read across discourse communities.  This one works, because it is read within a discourse community.

            That memo also tells us that all the document design research would probably not be as useful to the navy.  I mean, everyone knows you don’t write in all caps.  But it took the readers only 45 seconds to determine what the memo said.  That says, all caps won’t kill you and may not, in fact, really limit readability. 

            A suggestion for further research or a lit review, which I am not going to do having already started on mine, would be to look at document design studies and readability studies and see where they conflict, or might, and where they overlap.  I think it would be interesting to know if doc design standards also were determined based on isolate research, as opposed to in the field.  In fact, not knowing of any, I wonder if document design has much research in it.  I’d really like to know the theoretical bases for doc design.  Wonder who I’d ask or where I’d go to find out who the big names are in that field?

James Suchan and Ronald Dulek. “From Text to Context: An Open Systems Approach to Research in Written Business Communication” Journal of Business Communication  January 1, 1998; 35(1): 87 – 110.

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