Stereotypes and Common Misconceptions In Technical Communications

Whether you’re an experienced practitioner in technical and professional communication (TCP), or learning about this field for the first time, Emily Petersen’s article, “Articulating Value Amid Persistent Misconceptions about Technical and Professional Communication in the Workplace,” discusses the current conditions of TCP and uncovers ways to combat stereotypes. The findings in this article are based on 39 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with female practitioners of TCP. The results conclude that TCP is considered to be expendable in the workplace, and the participants highlighted myths that TCP is “cosmetic, secretarial, unarticulated, unnecessary, invisible, and unquantifiable” (210). 

Fortunately, solutions are also provided to educate others about the value of this field, and to help practitioners and scholars combat these issues. As a working professional, these lessons can be applied to broaden our scope and definition of TCP to understand “human interaction and the crossing of boundaries with technology, rhetoric, research, and design” (220). As perceptions continue to be documented and identified, which is primarily shown in Petersen’s article, TCP work will be elevated as a whole within a knowledgeable economy.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this research article because I can closely relate as a young female studying technical communication in graduate school. Petersen’s article is helpful because it reflects TCP’s current conditions, common misconceptions, and evolving issues since this article was published in 2017. In the future, I will join the workforce, and I often worry about facing gender-related challenges at work or being misunderstood and stereotyped within my role as a technical communicator. Thankfully, this article created a sense of awareness and community within TCP because Petersen conducted qualitative research interviewing several other female practitioners who revealed their personal stories.

Petersen lists several ways for practitioners to shape the future of TCP. First, advocating through explanation and performance will educate others outside of this field about the value of technical communicators. Second, claiming authority over your work will articulate its impact on many stakeholders and organizational processes. Across disciplines, networking and bringing awareness to subject matter experts (SMEs) that practitioners are necessary, visible, and indispensable will ultimately promote this role in the workplace.


Articulating Value Amid Persistent Misconceptions about Technical and Professional Communication in the Workplace, by Emily January Petersen

Viewpoint Written by Grace Larner, Texas State University

Edited by Jeranda Dennis, Texas State University

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