Technical communicators gather information and present it to a specific audience. Members of that audience then use the information to help them perform tasks or make decisions. Clearly, the technical communicator needs to ensure that the information is as correct, complete and fit for purpose as possible. However, the technical communicator also needs to consider whether the information they provide is sound from an ethical perspective.
For example, the information may be technically correct but is it potentially misleading in some way by distorting information or presenting an incomplete picture? In a competitive market, is a technical communicator sometimes required to gloss over inadequacies in a product? What would your reaction be if you were asked to prepare a document that was clearly intended to gain financial advantage for an organisation by overstating the capabilities of a product?
Technical communicators should at the very least comply with an appropriate code of ethical behaviour (see STC – Ethical principles for technical communicators) as they work to meet the needs of their readers and the organisation in which they work.
Typical ethical considerations include:
- Legality – The laws and regulations of the profession are followed.
- Honesty – Truthful and accurate communication are provided to the best of ability. Permission is obtained before using another’s work. Work is not done outside the job scope of the client or employer.
- Confidentiality – Business-sensitive information is disclosed only at the consent of the client or employer or when legally required.
- Quality – Realistic agreements are made with clients and employers. Obligations are strived to be fulfilled in a timely and responsible manner.
- Fairness – Business interest of clients and employers are served as long as they are in line with the public good. Any conflict of interest is disclosed to the concerned, and their approval must be obtain be proceeding.
- Professionalism – Technical communication is improved through integrity and excellence in performing each task taken. Others in the profession are assisted through mentoring, networking, and instruction. There are also conferences and courses for improvement.