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"Is This Ethical?": A Survey of Opinion on Principles and Practices of Document Design

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In a national survey, 500 technical communicators and 500 technical communication teachers were asked to assess the ethics of seven document design cases. According to the 455 respondents, manipulating typography and leading to fit more or less information on a page and using persuasive coloring or spacing are ethical practices, while the manipulation of pictorial illustrations and the distortion of graphics are unethical. Opinion on using typography to decrease readability is divided. In five of the seven cases, women are consistently more lenient or men consistently more strict in their answers: common practices, specifications, reader's responsibility, writer's responsibility, writer's intentions, consequences, judgments, principles, and insufficient information. The explanation most often given was consequences, indicating a "goal-based" philosophy of ethics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 1996

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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