Call for Presenters - Business Practices Committee Panel at ABC Annual International Conference

Call for Presenters - Business Practices Committee Panel at ABC Annual International Conference

The ABC Business Practices Committee is inviting submissions for the theme:

Out of the fog, into the sunshine of clear plain language: Effectively Communicating Financial and Technical Information

When Thomas Arthur Rickard took the lectern before an assembly of engineering faculty and students at the University of California in 1916, many of his listeners were familiar with his work.  During the previous decade, he had edited three of the world’s premier mining journals.  In 1908, he wrote the first notable textbook focused on technical writing. And some of those listeners may even have already heard his introductory words; he frequently used the same amusing quip in speeches before professional groups.  “It has been stated,” remarked Rickard slyly, “that ‘the man of science appears to be the only man who has something to say, just now—and the only man who does not know how to say it.’” (Rickard, Technical Writing, 1920, p. 1)

For the next few days, and over the course of five lectures, Rickard expounded upon his favorite topic:  The difficulty of communicating technical information so that readers can readily comprehend complex content.  He was particularly adamant that writers avoid jargon:

It [jargon] deals in periphrasis instead of going straight to the point, it loves the abstract rather than the concrete, it dabbles in words of sound rather than meaning.  Avoid it, despise it, if you purpose earnestly to write well. (p. 134)  

He concluded his lecture series with a pithy metaphor: “Amid the distortions of English and the uncertainties of rhetorical doctrine we shall not cry despairingly ‘Wither are we drifting?’ Rather let us ask hopefully ‘Whither shall we steer?’ The answer is prompt: ‘Out of the fog, into the sunshine of clear plain English.’” (pp. 172,173)

But even after listening to these words from a celebrated editor and author, Rickard’s students may have had little confidence in their abilities to “steer” writing into that desirable “sunshine.”  And students and practitioners of business communication are still required to express complex information and data in ways that are comprehensible—even engaging—for intended audiences.  Although business and technical writing are frequently discussed as separate fields, business communicators are often required to discuss information that includes technical content.  Presentations of financial and accounting information, analyses of data, descriptions of issues related to hardware and software, and explanations of legal or managerial decisions and strategies all require writers and speakers to come “out of the fog” and express meaning in ways that are appropriate for readers and listeners.

The Business Practices Committee will sponsor a panel hosted at the 2023 ABC International Annual Conference; its focus will be Out of the fog, into the sunshine of clear language: Effectively Communicating Financial and Technical Information. The panel will include three presentations that offer original research concerning ways in which complex content is shaped and presented to convey meaning. Case studies, historical analyses, ethnographic treatments, rhetorical and discourse analyses, quantitative studies, or other appropriate research methodologies are welcomed.  

Individuals or research teams interested in presenting their research are invited to submit a proposal abstract (approximately 500 words) as indicated below.  Panelists will be selected based upon review by members of the Business Practices Committee.

Please send abstracts by Friday, May 12, 2023, to the Committee Chair, Sam DeKay, at shdekay@earthlink.net

If you submit the same proposal both for this panel and for the general conference, please include the following statement in the first line of the extended abstract for your general conference submission: “BACKUP SUBMISSION. Note that this proposal is also submitted for consideration to the Business Practices Panel.”

If you have further questions concerning the Business Practices Committee or its sponsored panel at the 2023 International Conference, please contact the above email address.

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