Writing as a critical moment in professional discourse

Lillis, Theresa (2021). Writing as a critical moment in professional discourse. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 15(3) pp. 334–363.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/jalpp.21055


Written texts mediate action and serve as accounts of action in most contemporary professional domains. Echoing Candlin’s call for applied and social linguists to explore ‘critical moments’ in discourse, I argue that ‘writing’ constitutes just such a critical moment because of its contested position in professional domains and the dominant ideology underpinning writing evident both in ‘intellectual’ (academic researcher) and ‘expert’ (professional) orientations. A key challenge is to find ways of understanding writing which are not constrained by existing ‘intellectual’ and ‘expert’ orientations and which can contribute to useable knowledge for professional practice.
I draw on specific examples from ethnographically oriented research projects with professionals in two domains (academia and social work) to illustrate how a dominant ideology of writing is enacted. This enactment is explored further by focusing on ICT-mediated ‘expert systems’ in social work, illustrating how an increasingly used, specific technology of writing is impacting professional practice. I conclude by considering the difficulties and possibilities of collaboratively building usable knowledge about writing for professional practice.

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