A Basic Unit on Ethics for Technical Communicators

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To make informed decisions about ethical issues, technical communicators need to understand how to apply general ethical principles to the kinds of dilemmas they will face routinely, concerning such issues as plagiarism, trade secrets, and misrepresentation of text and graphics. This article reviews the controversy about the relationship between ethics and rhetoric among the Greeks, provides basic definitions of ethics, and applies the literature of business and professional ethics to the concerns of technical communicators and other professionals who communicate, showing how they must think through the conflicts of obligations to their employer, the public, and the environment. It provides a case study that can be used to reinforce a student's understanding of the relationship between technical communication and ethics.