Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Ethical issues in corporate speechwriting

  • 66 Accesses

  • 2 Citations


Executive speechwriting is a common practice in most large organizations. This activity, however, raises a number of ethical questions about responsibility and about audience deception. This essay explores the ethics of speechwriting from three perspectives and offers some general guidelines for maintaining ethical standards when using speechwriters.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aristotle: 1933,The Rhetoric of Aristotle (L. Cooper, Trans.) (Appleton-Century Crofts, Inc., New York).

  2. Auer, J. J.: 1984, ‘Ghostwriting and the Cult of Leadership Response’,Communication Education 33, pp. 306–307.

  3. Bernstein, J.: 1986, ‘PR Man Takes on the Role of Ghostbuster’,Advertising Age (August 4), p. 37.

  4. Bormann, E. G.: 1984, ‘Ghostwriting and the Cult of Leadership Response’,Communication Education 33, pp. 604–605.

  5. Bormann, E. G.: 1988, ‘Speaking for the Organization. The Rhetorical Critic and the Ethics of Corporate Speech’, paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, New Orleans, LA.

  6. Busse, J. G.: 1978, ‘Ghostwriters in the Executive Suite’,TWA Ambassador (June), pp. 43–45.

  7. Cheney, G.: 1991, To appear inRhetorical and Critical Approaches to P.R., E. L. Toth and R. L. Heath (eds.) (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.).

  8. Corbett, E. O.: 1971,Classical Rhetoric and the Modern Student (Oxford University Press, New York).

  9. Einhorn, L. J.: 1981, ‘The Ghosts Unmasked: A Review of the Literature on Speechwriting’,Communication Quarterly 30, pp. 41–48.

  10. Finn, D.: 1986, ‘Exorcise the Executive Ghostwriters’,Fortune (May 26), pp. 159–161.

  11. Haiman, F. S.: 1984, ‘Ghostwriting and the Cult of Leadership’,Communication Education 33, pp. 301–304.

  12. Jebb. R. C.: 1876,Attic Orators (Macmillian, London).

  13. McClenahen, J. S.: 1984, ‘Ghostwriters for the CEO’,Industry Week (June 11).

  14. Seeger, M. W.: 1985, ‘Ghostbusting: Exorcising the Great Man Spirit from the Speechwriting Debate’,Communication Education 34, pp. 353–357.

  15. Smith, D. K.: 1961, ‘Ghostwritten Speeches’,The Quarterly Journal of Speech 47, pp. 416–420.

  16. Traver, J.: 1984,The Corporate Speech Writer's Handbook (Quorum Books, New York).

Download references

Author information

Additional information

Matthew W. Seeger is an Associate Professor of Speech Communication and Director of Graduate Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. His major research interests lie in the area of organizational communication including crisis communication, leadership and ethics. His article “Free Speech and Institutional Constraint” was published in theFree Speech Yearbook and won the 1986 Wichelns Award for Research in Free Speech and Law.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Seeger, M.W. Ethical issues in corporate speechwriting. J Bus Ethics 11, 501–504 (1992).

Download citation


  • Economic Growth
  • Ethical Issue
  • Ethical Standard
  • General Guideline
  • Large Organization