Bad News? Good News! Disclosing unpleasant news to private customers

  • Barbara Pizzedaz (Redner*in)

Aktivität: VortragWissenschaftlicher Vortrag (Science-to-Science)


Receiving bad news from service providers, such as changes in contracts, increases in premiums or fees, or rejection of insurance claims, is a common experience for private customers. According to European insurance companies‟ surveys (e.g. ERGO 2012), thecomprehensibility of this written communication is generally low because complex wording and jargon often require re-reading and annoy recipients. However, although customer communication is widely regarded as a key aspect of business communication (e.g.,Stahl/Menz 22014, Mast 72019, Bovée/Thill 2010, Reinmuth et al. 2016), little research has been done on how unpleasant news is formulated by service providers in practice and on how the use of plain language can promote understanding of its content. Drawing on both text and corpus linguistics, my doctoral thesis focuses on the linguistic structure and characteristics of a corpus of bad news communications regularly sent to non-business clients of insurance companies and telecommunications providers. In order to describe the text production process, it also analyses the text trajectories (Silverstein/Urban 1996, Blommaert 2005, Woydack 2019) on the basis of my own ethnographic fieldwork, talks and interviews with in-house authors and those working in external communication agencies which support language-comprehensibilityprojects. This paper presents the preliminary results of my study, which reveal increased awareness of how powerful the language used in bad news communication can be. For instance, companies and agencies are adopting frameworks and benchmarks from second language acquisition to improve the clarity of their writing. Indeed, some even involve customers directly in the drafting process.
Zeitraum23 Sept. 201925 Sept. 2019
EreignistitelALAPP - Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice
VeranstaltungstypKeine Angaben

Österreichische Systematik der Wissenschaftszweige (ÖFOS)

  • 602004 Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft