Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
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Public communication practices of executive governments are often criticised by journalists, politicians, scholars, and other commentators. Therefore, government communication professionals routinely adopt various blame avoidance strategies, some of which are meant to ‘stop blame before it starts’ or to reduce their exposure to potential blame attacks. The linguistic aspects of such anticipative strategies are yet to be studied by discourse analysts.

I contribute towards filling this gap by showing how written professional guidelines for government communicators could be interpreted as complex discursive devices of anticipative blame avoidance.

I outline historically and institutionally situated issues of blame that inform the occupational habitus of government communicators in the UK. I bring examples from their propriety guidelines to illustrate how the use of certain discursive strategies limits the possible perceived blameworthiness of individual officeholders. I conclude by explicating the discursive underpinnings of two common operational blame avoidance strategies in government: ‘protocolisation’ and ‘herding’.


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