Call for Presenters:
Business Practices Committee
Sponsored Panel for 2021 ABC Annual Conference
The ABC Business Practices Committee is inviting submissions for the theme:
Effective, Ineffective, and Prohibited Communications in the Workplace
“The style of business English as well as the substance is governed by the principle of taking the reader’s point of view. This ‘you attitude’ is in fact the whole key to success in securing a favorable response.”
And, with these few words, George Burton Hotchkiss and Celia Anne Drew assumed a central role in the history of teaching business communications at American colleges and universities. Their textbook, Business English (1916), is considered the first explicit analysis of the language of commerce as having a distinct rhetorical purpose. “The communications that aid in business transactions,” they wrote, “whether sales talks, letters, reports, or advertisements—share the general purpose of business, which is profit. And profit results from action. Hence, our communications in business must influence the action of other people. It has rightly been said that business English is ‘the art of using words so as to make men do things (p. 4).’”
Hotchkiss and Drew were concerned that students—and practitioners also—understand that effective communication in business is the use of language such that readers or listeners respond in a manner favorable to the writer or speaker. Similarly, communications that fail to elicit this response—ineffective communications—must be avoided. For this reason, business students and practitioners must studiously avoid language that is egregiously ungrammatical:
“’I has received your letter’” is not less understandable than ‘I have received your letter,’ but it is avoided by every careful writer. It would distract the attention of the reader and make him feel contempt for the writer (p. 40).”
The authors recognized that poor grammar is not the exclusive criterion of ineffective business communication. Indeed, Hotchkiss and Drew emphasized that written or spoken language that fails to recognize the interests and needs of specific audiences will also likely not achieve the intended purposes. Business English offers analyses of how the “you attitude” may effectively be applied to various demographics: “Dealers,” “Business Men as Consumers,” “Professional Men,” “Farmers,” and “Women.” And Hotchkiss and Drew devoted considerable print space to drawing students’ attention to examples of effective letters, forms, and reports, as well as to communications deemed ineffective for their intended readers.
More than a century has passed since the original publication of Business English. However, instructors—and employers—have remained concerned that students and employees develop sufficient skills to grasp the often-ambiguous distinctions between “effective” and “ineffective” communications and to demonstrate this knowledge in practice. In addition, a further distinction has received increased attention in recent decades—communications that are not only ineffective, but also prohibited. Most employers, for example, prohibit the use of language (written or verbal) that is obscene or insensitive to the employees of diverse workplaces.
The Business Practices Committee will sponsor a panel hosted at the ABC 2021 Annual Conference; its focus will be “Effective, Ineffective, and Prohibited Communications in the Workplace.” The panel will include four presentations that offer original research concerning examples of corporate and workplace communications that have been deemed, by the researchers or by relevant stakeholders, to be effective, ineffective, or prohibited. 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. It is not necessary to prepare a full manuscript in order to be considered for the panel. Panelists will be selected based upon review by members of the Business Practices Committee.
Please send abstracts by May 7, 2021, to the Committee Chair, Sam DeKay, at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you submit the same proposal both for this panel and for the general conference, please include the following statement in 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 2021 Annual Conference, please contact the above email address.