Writing in the public realm, in today’s knowledge-based economy,1 can be a hugely powerful and influential activity, particularly when writers write from positions of authority or professional or political power. The privilege of writing in these spaces brings with it responsibilities and obligations to others whom writers address and in whose communities texts circulate. Paradoxically, however, these specifically textual responsibilities and obligations are sometimes ignored by the management of institutions and corporations. While employers typically declare the value and significance of effective communication skills — including writing — in getting the job ‘done’, there seems to be little explicit acknowledgement of the potential influence of language extending beyond its instrumental function. Cezar M. Ornatowski puts the point succinctly, when he explains that ‘effectiveness and efficiency, understood in terms of usefulness to employers, as the basic premises for communicative action appear to leave the communicator no provision, at least in theory, for action that does not “efficiently” further the goals of the institution or interests she serves’ (2003, p. 174). It seems, therefore, that words — as forms of ethical action — on page or screen, despite billions of dollars being invested in their (regularly glossy) production, really don’t matter after all.


Triple Bottom Line Critical Discourse Analysis Public Realm Writing Practice Effective Communication Skill 
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  1. 1.
    Norman Fairclough (2001) describes one of the key characteristics of new capitalism as its being ‘knowledge-based’ or ‘knowledge-driven’ and thus also ‘discourse-driven’: ‘knowledges are generated and circulate as discourses, and the process through which discourses become operationalised in economies and societies is precisely the dialectics of discourse’. In this book, my use of the term discourse is closely linked with the term rhetoric. Rhetoric consists of the specifically communicative aspects of discourse, its material functions and effects in social and individual lives, the relations of power it articulates, and its humanly transformative possibilities (see Eagleton 1983, pp. 194–217).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See Fairclough (1995, pp. 130–66) for a critical discourse analysis of a sample range of texts developed for the university sector. This analysis serves his broader argument claiming the ‘marketization’ of public discourse in contemporary Britain.Google Scholar

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© Anne Surma 2005

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