Written Communication: Informative Versus Persuasive Messages

Composing messages in written form is a fundamental skill that any professional communicator should know and improve upon. Understanding the difference between informative and persuasive messages can be complicated so examining the approaches to drafting these two types of messages is necessary. Examining the different approaches to creating informative and persuasive messages ensures that a communicator constructs messages in an ethical and authentic manner. Furthermore, by analyzing why informative and persuasive messages are different a professional communicator can introduce important messages to unreceptive audiences.

Foundations of Writing Informative and Persuasive Messages

Almost every written message contains elements that include identifying the purpose of the message, analyzing the audience for key elements, considering the context of communication, and selecting the appropriate medium for distribution (Walker, 2015). However, informative messages and persuasive messages differ in structure, organization, and presentation of content. Informative messages identify the topic, whether through direct or indirect approaches. The direct approach states the purpose and provides an abridgment of information at the beginning of the message (Walker, 2015). The direct approach is most often used for business communication for positive message distribution. The indirect approach is a common method for conveying unpleasant information or bad news. Restructuring information so that the negative information is not first and the message is supplemented with positive information at the end is a common practice for developing an indirect message.

Persuasive messages require a professional communicator to self-analyze, research, support, and demonstrate information to compose a compelling message. The structure of a persuasive message includes a claim, evidence, and an appeal to a schema of logos, ethos, or pathos (Walker, 2015). Schemas “function to control the encoding, storage, and retrieval of information…and serve as frameworks for comprehending new data, guiding actions, and bridging gaps in information” (Sullivan, 2009, p. 460). Claims and evidence demonstrate the ability to reason and establish a foundation of knowledge for persuading an audience (Walker, 2015), whereas claims and evidence are not used to influence an audience in informative messages. Although making a claim and providing supporting evidence is relevant to both informative and persuasive message construction, this process is more important for writing persuasive messages. Structure as a tactical element is more important in informative messages.

Direct and Indirect Approaches in Written Informative Messages

Peter Cardon, the associate professor for Center for Management Communication at University of Southern California indicates that the most effective process for creating an informative business messages is to use the AIM planning process. AIM is an easy to follow planning process; A is for audience analysis, I is for idea development, and M is for message structuring (Cardon, 2016). The AIM planning process is applicable for both indirect and direct approaches. Professor for the Center for Management Communication at University of Southern California Robyn Walker (2015) indicates that direct approaches are most applicable for all types of business communication both formal and informal where as indirect approach is best used for bad news. Most business people expect the direct approach in written communication because the direct approach provides a clear idea of what to expect in the message. However, using the indirect approach is necessary for conveying negative information. Unlike stating the purpose of the message upfront and placing the most important information at the beginning and end with the direct approach, an indirect message is buffered with neutral information at the beginning and end and the bad news is sandwiched in the middle of the message (Walker, 2015).

Ethical Messaging and Cultural Characteristics

Determining whether the indirect approach in written communication is ethical is relative to the audience so audience factors need to be considered. Professors Marianne Dainton and Elaine D. Zelley of La Salle University identify five cultural characteristics that affect communications. Individualism-collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, masculinity-femininity, and long-term and short-term orientation contribute to how well an indirect message will be received (Dainton and Zelley, 2011). People from individualist cultures might perceive an indirect message as suspicious whereas collectivist cultures view indirect approach as considerate. The cultural dimension of uncertainty avoidance and whether a person is high uncertainty or low uncertainty avoidant will predict the receptiveness of an indirect message. Similarly, a high power distance person might accept an indirect message as an appropriate method of communication but a low power distance person might dismiss it. The masculinity-femininity characteristics influence an indirect message because masculine cultures prefer assertive communication and feminine cultures prefer flexible communications. Lastly, long-term sand short-term orientation can influence messages but neither cultural orientation appears to prefer indirect over direct approach. Understanding how different cultural groups process information will help professional communicators develop perceptive written messages that ethically transmit information using the indirect approach.

Influence of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in Persuasive Messages

Walker (2015) states that a persuasive message contains two parts, which is the claim and evidence. The claim is defined as an idea presented as fact and evidence is specific information that supports the claim (Walker, 2015). Evidence is an important aspect in a persuasive message because providing evidence offers a professional communicator the opportunity to demonstrate reasoning and knowledge in a subject. Facts, statistics, examples, analogies, and expert testimonies are the types of evidence that can bolster a claim in a persuasive message (Walker, 2015). Using these types of evidence in a written persuasive message helps the audience process the message in a non-coercive manner. Additionally, appealing to the logical, ethical, and emotional interests of an audience is another tactic that a professional communicator can use when constructing a persuasive message.

Similar to communicating to the five types of cultural characteristics affect communications, appealing to schemas of logos, ethos, and pathos is another method of persuasive communication. Logos or logical appeal is the category of information that includes facts and statistics (Walker, 2015). Ethos is the “ethical appeal that refers to information that provides credibility to ourselves or our position” (Walker, 2015, p. 159). Pathos is the emotional appeal that allows an audience to empathize through emotion (Walker, 2015). Logos is deployed in written persuasive messages because business communicators use facts, statistics, examples, analogies, and expert testimonies. Logic is a foundation of persuasion. Ethical appeal is used because organizational culture includes ethics as a foundation for business. People will develop trust for a person if the person can establish credibility through ethical appeal. However, pathos should be used with significant consideration because emotional appeal is not appropriate for every audience. Collectivist feminine cultures with high uncertainty avoidance and low power distance might respond better to pathos whereas Individualist masculine cultures with low uncertainty avoidance and high power distance might respond poorly to pathos (Dainton and Zelley, 2011).

Establishing Common Ground for Persuasive Communications

Common ground is defined as “the interests, goals, and commonalities of belief that the communicator shares with the audience” (Walker, 2015, p. 94). Establishing common ground is important for most types of business communications but is particularly important when communicating with a hostile or resistant audience. An audience might have developed a confirmation bias or perceptual mind-set that influences how a message is received and interpreted. Dainton and Zelley (2011) define Inoculation Theory as a process of understanding how resistance evolves in an audience when drafting persuasive messages. Similar to the function of a vaccine, a weak argument from in a message can create immunity for the message receiver. “Once exposed to this weak argument, people are less likely to change their attitudes when presented with a stronger form of the argument; they have, in essence, developed a formidable defense system” (Dainton and Zelley, 2011, p. 135). Establishing common ground is the first step for influencing an audience that is resistant or immune to new information because this process helps transform and construct social realities.

To Inform and To Persuade

The foundations for communicating through written messages for both informative and persuasive are the same. Identify the purpose, analyze the audience, consider the context, and select the channel are evident in nearly every type of professional communication method (Walker, 2015). Additionally, selecting tactical elements such as planning, incorporating visual elements, editing, and revising are apparent in most types of professional communications (Walker, 2015). By understanding the difference between informative and persuasive messages, a professional communicator can compose messages appropriate to the audience.


Cardon, P. (2016). Business Communication: Developing leaders for a networked world (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Dainton, M. & Zelley E. D., (2011). Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life: A Practical Introduction (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Sullivan, L. E. (2009). The SAGE glossary of the social and behavioral sciences. US: Sage Publications Inc.

Walker, R. (2015). Strategic Management Communication for Leaders (3rd ed.). Stamford, Connecticut: Cengage Learning.


Strategic Communication Process: Audience Analysis

Communication in the most general sense is the process of transferring information. Creating a shared meaning by exchanging symbols and nonverbal messages contributes to how people make sense of information. Business communication is a combination of interpersonal, intercultural, and institutional communication. Understanding the components within business communication is necessary for transferring information to the appropriate audience. By analyzing the components that comprise an audience, a business can tailor messages to address the specific business needs while transferring information appropriate to the audience.

Importance of Audience Analysis

Cardon (2016) defines business ethics as, “the common accepted beliefs and principles in the business community for acceptable behavior” (p. 9). Business ethics are a combination of transparency, corporate values, and code of conduct that establish credibility of a business. An effective way of establishing credibility is to demonstrate accountability. By creating a sense of accountability, a business is positioned to communicate important messages about products and services to a target audience. To transfer information to an audience, the dialogic model of communication is a method that incorporates attributes of “trust, lack of pretense, sincerity, humility, respect, directness, open-mindedness, honesty, concern for others, empathy, nonmanipulative intent, equality, and acceptance of others as individuals with intrinsic worth, regardless of differences of opinions or beliefs” (Walker, 2015, p. 30).

Identifying Differences for Targeted Messages

When constructing business messages, an aspect to consider is the differences in the target audience. A message that is meant for one socioeconomic background might not be applicable to another demographic. Generational differences will contribute to the success of information transfer. An illustration of this type of transaction is how politicians are addressing different voting demographics. Millennials are the young American voting population and are less interested in socialist ideology and more interested in closing the income gap (Chang, 2016). Millennials have grown up in a time where they witnessed the banking crisis and Wall Street run amok. Conversely, Baby Boomers who are the largest voting population in the United States associate socialism with the Cold War, which is an inherent threat to their freedom (Chang, 2016). Even though both voting populations are concerned about fiscal responsibility, drafting a political message meant for Millennials will have a different tone from a political message destined for Baby Boomers.

Understanding Differences in Communications

Cultural intelligence contains three key components, cognitive knowledge, motivation, and behavioral adaptability (Walker, 2015). Developing cultural intelligence is a necessary skill for communicators because every person is a member of the global village. Developing strategies to overcome cultural difference is a critical factor in successful business interactions, even if the interactions are uncomfortable. According to Martin and Nakayama (2010), indicate that intercultural encounters make people aware of their own ethnocentrism, which is “a tendency to think that our own culture is superior to other cultures” (p. 5). One method for recognizing personal bias is to understand that bias is relative to the person. The relativist position is the idea that a person is shaped by language, cultural behaviors, and field of experience, which also indicates that no universal truth exists (Martin and Nakayama, 2010). Maintaining a relativist position is employing the big picture strategy to create the social constructionist perspective.

Creating Message Content for the Appropriate Audience

Walker (2015) indicates that a social constructionist perspective is the process of creating and reinforcing a shared meaning through communicative practices including the use of symbols, cultural practices, and realities. By incorporating the knowledge, interests, attitudes, and concerns of an audience, a message can be refined so that the crucial information is portrayed. Conciseness is presenting information in messages in a way to prevent information overload, which inhibits understanding. According to Walker (2015), information overload affects a person’s ability to “gather, analyze, and identify information on which to base sound decisions and communication strategies” (p. 40). In addition to creating concise messages, democratizing messages is a way communicators can draft messages for a multicultural audience. Developing an understanding of an audiences’ demographic feature allows communicators to cultivate a clear message while aiming the message at the most important group allows for a democratic strategy.

Creating Audience-Centered Messages

Although self-centered communication is important type of communication because intrapersonal communication can offer insight into self- reflexivity, audience-centered communication is recognizing the needs, concerns, and expectations of the audience members (Walker, 2015). Ensuring communication is an audience-centered method of communication is a multipoint process. Analysis of topic location, eliminating superfluous information, logical organization, elaboration, and proofreading are the five points of constructing audience-centered messages. Analysis of topic location is confirming that the topic is presented first while eliminating superfluous information is removing information that is irrelevant to the topic. Logical organization of information is placing information in a clear and relatable order while elaboration is expanding on any information that needs additional clarification. Although necessary, drafting a message is not as important as planning. Cardon (2016) indicates that excellent writers spend most of the time planning a message as well as dedicating more time to reviewing. The fifth point of proofreading is a culmination of the planning, drafting, and reviewing process of message creation.

Predictions for Best Practices

Communication and the supporting tenets provide businesses and people with a foundation for delivering well-tailored messages. Analyzing the different audiences, identifying the most appropriate method for message delivery, and employing strategies for overcoming cultural differences are approaches for designing messages for a targeted audience. Strategies such as employing the five-points of audience-centered messages, recognizing how information overload can deter conciseness, and analyzing social constructionist perspective to determine the most effective procedures will help communicators develop accountability and establish credibility. By applying these components of communication, a business can present the clearest message for audience.


Cardon, P. (2016).  Business Communication: Developing leaders for a networked world (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Chang, J. (2016, February 9). Juju Chang: The Power of Your Story. [Video File] The National Society for Leadership and Success. Retrieved from https://www.societyleadership.org/members/content/broadcast

Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2010). Intercultural communication in contexts (5th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

Walker, R. (2015). Strategic Management Communication for Leaders (3rd ed.). Stamford, Connecticut: Cengage Learning.


The Skills of Strategic Communicators

Sending and receiving a message in the 21st Century has evolved into a complex model of communications. Strategic and ethical communications are practices that every CEO needs to understand at a fundamental level. Additionally, developing ethical communications is a skill that CEOs need to incorporate into business practices so that the appropriate message is communicated to the right audience. By identifying the skills and abilities necessary for creating strategic and ethical communication practices, CEOs can create an impact within their organizations that promote values of the organization.

Development of Strategic and Ethical Communication

Walker (2015) identifies the strategic process of communication as the big picture process of communicating goals, plans, or results. A strategic communicator should have skills that include personal, social, business, and cultural literacies (Walker 2015). In addition to these skills, strategic communicators need to develop an ethical approach to communicating. Demers and Sullivan (2016) outline several considerations for communicating ethically including respecting rights, informed consent, maintaining confidentiality, minimization of intrusion of privacy, confidentiality, and accepting responsibility for actions. Recognizing that strategic communication skills entail ethical communication is necessary for communicating to a multifaceted audience. By understanding the intricate systems that comprise the communication environment within a business, CEOs will have a better opportunity to communicate the right message at the right time to the right audience in an ethical manner.

Communicating in a Connected and Global Environment

The communication landscape has changed dramatically since the early 2000s. One of the most important perceptions that a CEO should be aware of is that social media is no longer a novel fad but is a fact of communication that, “is here to stay” (Arthur W. Page Society, 2013, p. 9). Another important perception is that classic method of message segmentation is a dated concept and rapid response is critical to success. “CEOs are now convinced that all communications strategies need to work for all audiences, all the time” (Arthur W. Page Society, 2013, p. 9). CEOs need to recognize that rapid response is a crucial part of communications management. Kat Cole the CEO of Focus Brands, the parent company of Cinnabon, has a company wide policy of no tweet left behind. This policy was the reason Cinnabon was featured on the program Better Call Saul. A relationship formed because Cole’s social media policies recognized that communicating instantly through social media is a priority.

Impact of Behavioral Literacy

Fouberg, Murphy, and de Blij (2009) describe spatial interactions as distance, accessibility, and connectivity that shape human perceptions of global landscape. Physical space contributes to the diffusion of information while the ease of communicating contributes to the knowledge of a person’s place in the world. The ability to access a network of information and become involved with others helps a person develop a relative cultural approach to interacting with others. Understanding the relationship between spatial interactions and strategic communications is an important concept for CEOs to understand. Mastering the new media and maintaining an uninterrupted presence is critical for business success (Arthur W. Page Society, 2013). CEOs need to realize that communication is a multichannel that evolves instantly with our without their involvement.

Final Thoughts

Quality communication adds significant value to an organization and CEOs recognizes the inherent worth of a well-versed strategic communicator. Incorporating strategic and ethical communications into a business plan is an approach that CEOs understand because strategic communication can become a factor that determines the success or failure of a business. By recognizing the versatile literacies of human behavior and ethical considerations of communications, CEOs can successfully implement plans for strategic communications within the global environment.


Arthur W. Page Society. (2013). The CEO view: The impact of communications on corporate character in a 24/7 digital world. [Survey report]. Retrieved from http://www.awpagesociety.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/08/The-CEO-View-2013.pdf

Cole, K. [NSLS]. (2016, February 23). The Art of Change, Trust & Influence. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.societyleadership.org/members/content/broadcast

Demers, J. A., & Sullivan, A. L. (2016). Confronting the ubiquity of electronic communication and social media: Ethical and legal considerations for psychoeducational practice. Psychology In The Schools, 53(5), 517-532. doi:10.1002/pits.21920. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2016-15448-001&site=eds-live&scope=site

Fouberg, E. H., Murphy, A. B., & de Blij, H. J. (2009). Human geography: People, place, and culture (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Walker, R. (2015). Strategic Management Communication for Leaders (3rd ed.). Stamford, Connecticut: Cengage Learning.

Contingency Design Theory and Media Richness Theory in Relationship to Intended Audience Communications

Systems exist within organizational structure that provides the most effective operational format. When a system becomes faulty people have the opportunity to analyze different methods of structural changes for the system. Contingency Design Theory (CDT) is the idea that structure for a system is relative to the environment. CDT is the process of understanding the conditions that determine the most effective strategy an organization will use  (Conrad & Poole, 2005). When developing communications, a person should be aware of the organizational structure and tailor the communications to the system. For example, writing a news story for a trusted publication should follow the Journalism of Verification method. Defined as professional journalism that emphasizes vetted information, skepticism, completeness, truthfulness, and maintaining clear facts (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010), journalism of verification is the theoretical platform for creating accurate and truthful articles. Furthermore, a writer using Journalism of Verification will follow the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. The verification process indicates that, “neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy” (Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, 2014, para. 5). Writers should investigate information through multiple sources so the content is as clear as possible.

Herschel and Yermish (2008) describe media richness theory as “the more ambiguous and uncertain a task is the richer the media must be” (p. 65). When presenting limited information through a public channel, a writer needs to ensure that the content is interesting enough to overpower visual and environmental noise. People have limited time and attention to dedicate to lengthy messages so one method of communications is to focus on the supra-level design elements. As the largest-scale of visual design in an electronic medium, supra-level design provided guidance for understanding the organization structure of a system (Kostelnick and Roberts, 2011). An important aspect to remember when designing communication is to keep the content relevant to the audience. “Persuasive communication is often perceived as a threat to one’s freedom, even if the message recommendation is in one’s best interest” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, para. 3). Writers should develop an awareness of the structure of communications to best reach the intended audience.

Conrad, C., & Poole, M. (2005). Strategic organizational communication in a global economy (6th ed.). Belmond, CA: Wadsworth.

Cooper, P. [Bailey Cooper Photography and Video]. (2013, April 12). Top Ten Tips for a GREAT Corporate Video [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tc7LBx7XzE

Herschel, R. T., & Yermish, I. (2008). Knowledge transfer: Revisiting video. International   Journal of Knowledge Management, 4(2), 62-74. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/docview/223090912?accountid=3783

Kostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. D., (2011). Designing visual language: strategies for professional communicators. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T., (2010). Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload.  New York: Bloomsbury.

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics.  Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Wiley-Blackwell; narrative entertainment programming can lead to persuasive outcomes. (2009). Entertainment Newsweekly, 167. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/docview/200230507?accountid=3783


Importance of New Media Accessibility

Benefits of Compliance

Section508.gov and the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 govern access to Federal websites. According to the law, Federal agencies must ensure technology is accessible when agencies create and disseminate information through electronic technology (United States Access Board, n.d.).  The Kentucky’s Office for the Americans with Disabilities Act indicates in the United States, 58 million people are living with disabilities but “only 39.3% of all working age Americans with disabilities were participating in the work force” (Kentucky’s Office for the Americans with Disabilities Act, n.d.). Section508.gov is necessary for empowering and providing opportunity for people with disabilities. Federal agencies must comply with anti-discriminatory laws for websites so that individuals who are either Federal employees or members of the public, “access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities” (United States Access Board, n.d., para. 4).

Ensuring Organizational and Website Compliance with Section 508

United States Access Board (n.d.) identifies multiple components for constructing accessible technology in the Federal Government. Equipment for transmission of data and electronic information should be accessible through physical locations or if unavailable, purchased by the Federal government to ensure accessibility. Software and peripheral devices should be installed for people with disabilities. Technical assistance should be available to people working in Federal departments. Telecommunications devices must be disability accessible so Section 255 of the Communications Act instructs manufacturers to develop products that are usable by disabled people (United States Access Board, n.d.). Compliance with the law includes providing the public with the ability to acquire wired and wireless devices, computers and computer components, and internal organizational equipment. By providing the public access to telecommunication devices such as computers, phones, and customer service within an organization, website owners are empowering disabled people.

Final Thoughts

The legal requirements of accessibility are outlined for websites but as new media evolves, problems arise. The extraordinarily successful app PokemonGo that was released in July 2016 has proven to be problematic for people with disabilities.

The game is appealing to virtually everyone, but it’s simply not accessible for some players. Pokémon Go is limiting for people with physical disabilities, and the physical requirements needed to play the game—like moving around the environment to collect Pokémon, and walking a certain distance to hatch eggs—make it hard or impossible for some people to play (Larson, 2016, para. 2).

Accessibility is an important component for new media because inclusion is what creates a global community.


Kentucky’s Office for the Americans with Disabilities Act. (n.d.). ADA General Information. Retrieved from http://ada.ky.gov/why_important.htm

Larson, D. (2016, July 12). How Pokémon Go is creating a barrier for gamers with disabilities. Daily Dot. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/debug/pokemon-go-disabilities-problematic/

United States Access Board. (n.d.). About the Telecommunications Act Section 255 Guidelines. Retrieved from https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-telecommunications-act-guidelines

United States Access Board. (n.d.). Section 508: The Law. Retrieved from https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards/background/section-508-the-law





Determining the Validity of a Website

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Recent events across the United States have been discussed on social media with people posting links to articles and news stories. Identifying the validity and vetted aspect of a source is crucial for understanding bias in the media. In the book Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) state

For there are no media rules. There is no law that requires labeling. The First Amendment protects the right of all of us to write or broadcast freely (p. 35).

Understand that anyone can publish anything about anyone or anything regardless of truthfulness, accuracy, qualifications, or ability. The Internet has been called the great leveler because this channel of communication has given voice to voiceless but also given voice to those with opinions and ideas that are destructive and hateful.

Analyzing a source of a news post on a social media network is necessary for developing online literacy. Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) identify multiple models of journalism including three models of news, which are Journalism of Verification, Journalism of Assertion, and Journalism of Affirmation.

Journalism of Verification

This model is the traditional format of vetting and verifying information before publishing and is used by respected news sources. Journalism of Verification is the method people should be striving to read and share. Characteristics of verification place value on completeness, answering questions, multiplicity of sources, skepticism, producing evidence, and maintaining clear facts (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010).

Journalism of Assertion

The emergence of 24/7 news created a change in how information was vetted and thus broadcasted. The public demand for information coupled with technology meant that verifying information became a secondary characteristic. “In a sense the bias toward speed over accuracy is built in into the nature of the technology” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010, p. 43). Journalism of Assertion is becoming an accepted from of information distribution because society demands instant answers.

Journalism of Affirmation

The Internet has provided a conduit for echo chambers to form through the non-existent qualifications of publishing on online. Journalism of Affirmation is the logical fallacy of confirmation bias within the echo chamber. “The appeal of the journalism of affirmation is similar to that of the security and convenience offered by faith, as opposed to fact and empiricism” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010, p. 47). This is a potentially dangerous model of information distribution because the public lacks the skills and qualifications to distinguish fact from pre-existing belief.

Determining the Validity of a News Source

American psychologist Eric Festinger posited that when people are presented with contradictory information they experience cognitive dissonance and seek cognitive consistency (Sullivan, 2009). Even though cognitive consistency is a normal psychological response, understanding information that conflicts with establish beliefs is necessary for personal growth. These are steps that can be taken to identify false, misleading, affirmation news sources on the Internet.

Review the Domain Ending: Although most people can obtain a domain, some sites are specific to certain organizations. Domain endings .edu .gov and .org are examples of limited use by organizations. Vetted information will be transparent on domains that have specific requirements for accreditation and authorization.

Cautiously Explore the Website: Click About or Contact Us and ask what is the purpose of the website? Does the website have links for purchasing products? If the purpose is unclear or the website has a lot of promotions for buying products this is likely an entrance into an echo chamber.

Google It: what does the Google have to say about the story? What does Bing have to say about the story? What does Yahoo! have to say about the story? If it is a vetted story, multiple websites that have no association with each other will have information about the story.

Check Urban Legend and Hoax Sites: Visit sites like Snopes, Hoax Slayer, and Facecrooks and ask What information is missing that would make this story believable? Where is the evidence coming from? How are the facts presented? Is anything implied? What is the tone of the article? The ability to evaluate motives, bias, and sources on a website is critical for identifying the model of journalism.

Personal Blogs and Websites

Many authors on the Internet provide readers with well-researched and quality information. These authors may also be experts in a field and use blogs and websites as a tool for distributing information. However, the great leveler that is the Internet gives a voice to anyone with an ISP connection and a tinfoil hat. Although information distribution has shifted from the traditional newsroom to the amateur blogger, the reader needs the skills to determine whether the information is propaganda, marketing, a publicity stunt, or vetted news.


List of Fake News Sites (Satire and Hoaxes)

Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors

Fake News Watch

Don’t Be Fooled! A Guide to Fake News Websites


Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T., (2010). Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload. New York: Bloomsbury.

Sullivan, L. E. (2009). The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. London: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=shapiro&db=e000xna&AN=474685&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_99



Proxemics and Expectancy Violations Theory

Expectancy Violations Theory  (EVT) is one way of understanding how people create assumptions and use physical space. People interact with space in ways where behaviors are expected. A component of EVT includes the interpersonal behavior subject of proxemics zones. Proxemics is the study of how humans use space. Intimate distance, personal distance, social distance, and territoriality with sub territories are components of proxemics within EVT. Intimate distance is the zone around a person that ranges from zero to 18 inches. In Western culture, this space is often shared with family members and close friends. Personal distances ranges from 18 inches to 4 feet and reserved for interactions with familiar people. An impromptu meeting with a coworker at the water cooler or the exchange of pleasantries with the clerk at the local grocery store is familiar interactions. Social distance ranges from 4 to 12 feet and is the space people use interacting in social environments such as work or parties. Public distance is 12 feet and beyond and is a formal type of space used by public figures, educators, supervisors, and so on.

Claiming Space

How space is used is the subject of territoriality. Defined as a person’s ownership of an object or area (West and Turner, 2004), territoriality is the process that people apply to personal and private property. From placing a book bag on a seat in a crowded subway car to building a fence around a home, Western culture uses territory to signify ownership. Territoriality has three main components of primary territories, secondary territories, and public territories. Primary territory is a person’s, “exclusive domain over an area or object” (West and Turner, 2004, p. 139). An office desk and a warehouse locker are claimed and labeled by workers to indicate ownership of the territory. Secondary territory is a person’s “affiliation with an area or object” (West and Turner, 2004, p. 139). A particular seat at the local coffee house or a library a student visits frequently and thinks of as a second home is how people associate secondary territory with an area or object. Public territory is, “open spaces for everyone” (West and Turner, 2004, p. 139). Beaches, parks, city centers, town squares, and so on are public spaces that are accessible by anyone.

Gendered Space

Sapiro (2003) notes that space is used and manipulated differently by men and women. Men take up more space than women do and that contributes to how Western culture perceives men and women’s roles in shared spaces. Richards and McAlister examined how men and women occupy space in a 1994 study published in the Journal of Psychology

Men sit and stand more expansively than women do much more often spreading their arms and legs outward or sideways or sitting with their heads and trunks leaning backward and their legs spread out in front of them. American men tend to cross their legs in the ankle-over-knee position. Women position themselves as though trying to shrink, with arms and legs closer to the body. The more submissive a woman is, the more controlled her body movements (Sapiro, 2003, p. 337/338).

When behavior deviates from expected interactions communication issues emerge because people will react negatively to space violations. Expectancy Violations Theory provides a foundation for why communication issues materialize in relationship to how people use space. However, EVT does not provide solutions for conflict management so anyone experiencing a violation of expected behavior should also be aware of how to resolve the situation.


Sapiro, V. (2003). Women in American society: An introduction to women’s studies (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

West, R., & Turner, L. (2004). Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.