A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Visual rhetoric is the study of how document design (including the use of illustrations, charts and graphs, typography and layout) communicate, as opposed to aural or verbal messages. Visual rhetoric examines also the relationship between images and writing.



English 5369 Topics and Genres in Rhetoric and Composition: Visual Rhetoric2007

This interdisciplinary course focuses on studying and researching the role of rhetoric in the development of visual elements in texts. Students will be asked to both analyze and design visual texts, to analyze and critique ways in which visual rhetoric is defined, and to conduct primary research on an element of visual rhetoric.

Garza, Susan Loudermilk. Texas A and M University (2007). Academic>Courses>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Enhancing Your Written Works by Producing Effective Charts

Producing effective charts is essential to any document that conveys technical, scientific, or financial data. Here are four suggestions to ensure that your charts are effective and enhance rather than detract from your document.

Davidson, Jeff. Carolina Communique (2009). Articles>Document Design>Visual Rhetoric>Charts and Graphs


Establishing a Presence on the World Wide Web: A Rhetorical Approach   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article presents a framework--grounded in the classic rhetorical concept of ethos--for thinking about how technical communicators might examine the unique characteristics of the World Wide Web and the audiences it serves. The usefulness and increasing popularity of the Web is based on how well individuals and organizations use the technology as a means of establishing an online ethos. Technical communicators are already familiar with the obvious goal of establishing a professional ethos, but they might also consider some techniques for establishing sites having a more diverse and communal ethos. This ethos is expressed in 'special interest' Web sites constructed by individuals, and several commercially-oriented organizations have also successfully incorporated this ethos into their sites.

Hunt, Kevin. Technical Communication Online (1996). Articles>Rhetoric>Online


Estratégia Para a Elaboração de Uma Tese

Resume-se, em duas páginas, uma estratégia para a elaboração de uma tese de mestrado ou de doutoramento. Partindo de um modelo de acção em duas fases, cada uma das quais decomponível em três sub-fases, esclarece-se o percurso mais desejável para obter resultados de forma eficaz e eficiente. Apesar da simplicidade deste roteiro conciso, que contrasta com a complexidade efectiva da elaboração de uma tese, os cuidados apresentados são quase sempre suficentes para superar as principais situações de impasse.

Dias de Figueiredo, Antonio. Universidade de Coimbra (1998). (Portuguese) Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Ethical Implications of Intercultural Audiences

Argues that it is crucial that technical writing courses raise the awareness of the implications of intercultural communication, and specifically, how to include the translator as the target audience.

Heitzman, Lisa. Orange Journal, The (2005). Articles>Language>Ethics>Rhetoric


Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking

In this article, you’ll learn what ethos, pathos, and logos are (the secret!), and what every speaker needs to understand about these three pillars of public speaking.

Dlugan, Andrew. Six Minutes (2010). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Evaluation of Chat Reference Service Quality

This article reports on a pilot study. The pilot will inform the methods for a larger, evaluative study of the quality of chat reference service. The evaluative study will use obtrusive observation techniques to look at several aspects of chat-based reference service from the information seeker's perspective including: the overall session, the chat or negotiation process, and the provision of answers, including the sources used. The evaluative study will specifically address the quality of output by assessing the accuracy and completeness of answers provided to chat reference service clients.

White, Marilyn Domas, Eileen G. Abels and Neal Kaske. D-Lib Magazine (2003). Articles>Rhetoric>Online


The Evolution of Visual Information Retrieval   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This paper seeks to provide a brief overview of those developments which have taken the theory and practice of image and video retrieval into the digital age. Drawing on a voluminous literature, the context in which visual information retrieval takes place is followed by a consideration of the conceptual and practical challenges posed by the representation and recovery of visual material on the basis of its semantic content. An historical account of research endeavours in content-based retrieval, directed towards the automation of these operations in digital image scenarios, provides the main thrust of the paper. Finally, a look forwards locates visual information retrieval research within the wider context of content-based multimedia retrieval.

Enser, Peter. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Content Management>Visual Rhetoric>Search


Examining the Effect of Reflective Assessment on the Quality of Visual Design Assignments in the Technical Writing Classroom   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article examines the role that reflective assessment plays in contributing to the quality of students' visual designs. Students who are required to account for their rhetorical decisions in the design of a document benefit from the practice of verbalizing those decisions. However, this study shows that students who engage in reflective assessment actually produce stronger visual designs as well. This effect should help determine the extent to which such assessments should be included in the classroom.

Lauer, Claire. Technical Communication Quarterly (2013). Articles>Education>Visual Rhetoric


Exploiting Verbal-Visual Synergy in Presentation Slides   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Describes the most challenging aspect of creating slides for an oral presentation. Presents two principles for creating informative and persuasive graphics. Explains how to use drawing tools to communicate the schema of the slide and to emphasize important portions of the images.

Markel, Mike. Technical Communication Online (2009). Articles>Presentations>Writing>Rhetoric


Exploring the Blind Spot: Audience, Purpose, and Context in "Product, Process, and Profit"

Technical communicators have longed turned to audience, purpose, and context as they analyze situations. But Mirel's article demonstrates that audience-purpose-context is too weak a framework to handle the job of detailed sociopolitical analysis: not only is it inadequate for analyzing the needs of end users, it is also inadequate for analyzing situations within the writer's organization. In this response, this paper explores the weakness of audience-purpose-context and points to alternative sociopolitical frameworks.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Computer Documentation (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>TC


'Faces of the Fallen' and the Dematerialization of US War Memorials   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The advent of internet technology has enabled the process of memorialization of those killed in US military conflicts to keep pace with the casualties themselves and, as such, has marked a shift in both the ideology of the war memorial as symbol and the ideology-driven media use of those symbols. This article argues that a process of increasing humanization and specificity enabled by the information architecture of the internet has led to a form of `war memorial', exemplified by www.facesofthefallen.org, that emphasizes decontexualized human loss at the expense of a coherent representation of a military nature for the loss itself.

Grider, Nicholas. Visual Communication (2007). Articles>Web Design>Visual Rhetoric>History


Fear Not the Long Sentence

Everyone fears the long sentence. Editors fear it. Readers fear it. Most of all, writers fear it. Even I fear it. But...

Clark, Roy Peter. Poynter Online (2004). Articles>Writing>Grammar>Rhetoric


Finding Funding: Writing Winning Proposals for Research Funds   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Identifies funding sources and describes the proposal review process. Provides example criteria and identifies ways to write proposals to meet the needs of its audience of reviewers.

Grove, Laurel K. Technical Communication Online (2004). Articles>Grants>Proposals>Rhetoric


Five Tips for First-Time or Nervous Presenters

When you’re giving a presentation, the last thing you want is to convey a sense of anxiousness or nervousness. It’s no secret that speakers who don’t appear calm, cool, and collected don’t gain the complete confidence of their audience. As a result, they lose much-needed credibility and authority with their attendees. But, keeping it together isn’t always so easy – particularly for first-time presenters, or people who are just nervous by nature. What are some of the best ways to keep your anxiety in check – or at the very least, to hide it from your audience?

SlideRocket (2010). Articles>Presentations>Advice>Rhetoric


Five Ways to Avoid the “Congratulations” Cliche as You Start a User’s Guide

“Congratulations on purchasing your iPod shuffle.” Have you seen this congratulations sentence before? I see this same pattern of congratulations on almost every manual for products I buy. Could no one think of any other way to kick off the start of a relationship between a product and user? Take the coolest kind of product, an iPod that goes underwater, and then drown the user guide with a cliche.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2012). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Rhetoric


Fixing the Flaws in the Ten Principles of Clear Writing

More importantly, most lists of ten principles of clear writing are not really principles at all, but rather tips and technique. Understanding why you are doing something, i.e., the benefit you will gain, helps ensure that you will actually do it and do it consistently. Too often, when we are told only what to do, we follow the instruction half-heartedly, inconsistently, or not at all.

Yaffe, Philip. IEEE PCS (2008). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>Minimalism


Fluency, Fluidity, and Word Processing   (peer-reviewed)

Despite the above maxim, numerous studies have been conducted over the past five years to determine whether student compositions improve significantly with the use of a computer. As Gail Hawisher (summarizing Seymour Papert) suggests, our field is so new that we seem lobe in a technoúcentric phase comparable to the egocentric phase through which Piaget’s children must pass on the way to maturity. We are searching for “THE effect” of the computer on the product (the text) rather than “the effects” of the computer both on the writer and on the context in which the product is produced. We have already passed judgment on what the computer should do (improve the product) rather than investigate what it does do. Thus, the results of the studies conducted to date appear contradictory.

Boiarsky, Carolyn. JAC (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Computers and Writing


For A More Powerful Performance, Say It Short And Well

Centuries ago great orators often spoke for several hours at a time. But today, when sound bites on television news are the status quo and complex sociological problems are solved in an hour on a television drama, audiences are most interested in speakers who get their points across in a short period of time. Today, great speakers are noted for their brevity.

Boyd, Stephen D. Presentations (2003). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Formation of Norms in a Blog Community

Blogs are often situated within a blog community of similar interests. These communities can be a useful way for readers to access a specific slice of information.

Wei, Carolyn. Into the Blogosphere (2004). Articles>Rhetoric>Online>Blogging


From Empathy to Advocacy

For the past several years, I’ve been privileged to work with a number of local advocacy organizations in my community. Doing so has made me keenly aware of the crucial role that advocates play. They operate on scales both large and small—from working with lawmakers to shape public policy, to helping a single parent fill out the paperwork to find child care that enables them to keep a job.

Mullican, Lyle. List Apart, A (2015). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design>Rhetoric


From Logocentrism to Ethocentrism: Historicizing Critiques of Writing Research   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Since the 1960s, attitudes toward empirical research on writing, including research on technical/professional writing, have shifted from encouragement to resistance. This essay traces these shifts in light of changes in writing research, psychology, and the rhetoric of science. In composition studies, an initial mild uneasiness about 'scientism' intensified with the rise of process models, suggesting a Romanticist defense of the mystique of creativity. More recent post-modernist denunciations of scientific methods as immoral have other Romanticist overtones. In technical communication, a long-standing interest in workplace writing practices allowed a smoother integration of empirical analysis with descriptive studies of writing contexts. However, as in composition, recent critiques in technical communication suggest that empirical methods should not be employed. These critiques too tightly circumscribe the values that may be considered humanist and cut off important avenues of inquiry and critique that historically have advanced both the sciences and humanities.

Charney, Davida. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


From Pen to Print: The New Visual Landscape of Professional Communication    (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Visual design has played an important role in the historical development of professional communication. The technology of laser printing has reestablished the importance of visual language in functional communication, transforming contemporary document design and redefining its relation to the traditions of handwritten, typewritten, and printed text. During this period of transition, three factors will shape the new visual language: (a) the development of a visual rhetoric that represents design as an integral part of the message rather than merely as external "dress," (b) the rediscovery of aesthetics as a legitimate factor in text design, and (c) the use of empirical research--particularly context-specific research--to guide the document design process.

Kostelnick, Charles. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (1994). Articles>Document Design>Visual Rhetoric>Printing


From the Steam Engine to DNA: Revolutions   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This chapter from the most recent book by STC's 1998 Honorary Fellow demonstrates that a great dynamic web of change links us to one another and to all the events of the past and the future. James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine are linked to the invention of the copier, carbon paper, and the safety match, as well as the discovery of DNA.

Burke, James. Technical Communication Online (1998). Articles>Rhetoric


Frozen Memories: Unthawing Scott of the Antarctic in Cultural Memory   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article explores the staging of memory and death and the connotative differences within still photographs and film. It examines the tenses that can be inferred in reading photographs and film through examples drawn from representations of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13 and Captain Scott's journey to the South Pole taken by Herbert Ponting, and in the 1948 film _Scott of the Antarctic_.

Barwell, Claire. Visual Communication (2007). Articles>Multimedia>Visual Rhetoric



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