Ethics in Technical Writing

Subject: Ethics in Technical Writing
From: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
To: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- hologic -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 10:37:22 -0700

From, Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?

On 4/28/2017 2:18 PM, Janoff, Steven wrote:

Very nice point.

Thanks for seeing my point.

I think we've seen examples of this cited in past threads (the one that cost a company millions of dollars or something? -- or maybe that was a different principle).

The cases of the missing commas?

It's so tempting to make a change, but you really do have to resist that urge and check things out with SMEs if you're not deeply schooled in the technology of the domain.

Right. And this becomes a question of ethics. I don't see where ethics in technical writing has ever been discussed. STC has ethical principles that center on employment ethics but not on the ethics of the quality or cogency of content.

I have had employers and project managers tell me to make up data when data was missing. I have been clear with them that the data must be accurate or close to reasonable because the audience of the document will rely on it. Sometimes, I have received the response that the document will just sit in a file somewhere and nobody will read it, so it doesn't matter what it says. I cannot lie for someone, especially not in a situation where my client is trying to get hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

I think technical writers should adopt a duty of ethics in writing. I'm sure many technical writers abide by ethical principals but these principles are not discussed anywhere that I can find. An SME will provide information and a technical writer will translate that information into a readable document. But if necessary information gets lost or changed in the translation, then has the technical writer breached an unstated duty of ethics?

Visit TechWhirl for the latest on content technology, content strategy and content development |


You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-
To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-leave -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Looking for articles on Technical Communications? Head over to our online magazine at

Looking for the archived Techwr-l email discussions? Search our public email archives @

Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Emoto
RE: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Lauren
Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Dave C
Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Lauren
RE: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Janoff, Steven
Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Lauren
RE: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?: From: Janoff, Steven

Previous by Author: Re: Structured stuff for the beginner
Next by Author: FYI More states starting to ban the "What's Your Salary?" Question
Previous by Thread: RE: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?
Next by Thread: Re: Grammar: "Multiply by" or "Multiply times"?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads