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The author considers ethical issues involved in technical advertising by examining several documents produced by a major insurance company to promote and explain a health care plan. The documents (newspaper advertisement, followup brochure, and policy) are evaluated for truthfulness, according to general rhetorical criteria as well as legal and industry standards. The author concludes that technical writers are obliged to acquaint themselves with a variety of ethical principles governing advertising practices. To ensure that readers understand the truth, technical writers should also apply a variety of readability assessments and edit documents carefully to ensure that advertising and promotional literature are intertextually consistent with contracts, warranties, and policies.
Date of Publication: Sept. 1987