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.



"In Case You Didn't Hear Me the First Time": An Examination of Repetitious Upward Dissent   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study explores how employees express dissent to management about the same issue on multiple occasions across time (i.e., how they practice repetition). Employees completed a survey instrument reporting how often they used varying upward dissent tactics, how often and for how long they raised the same issue, and how they perceived their supervisors responded to their concerns. Results indicate that employees relied predominantly on competent upward dissent tactics but that they adopted less competent and more face-threatening tactics as repetition progressed. In addition, employees' perceptions of their supervisors' responses to repetition related to the overall duration of repetition but not to the frequency with which employees raised issues or the amount of time that elapsed between dissent episodes.

Kassing, Jeffrey W. Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Rhetoric


In Citing Chaos: A Study of the Rhetorical Use of Citations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Research on citations has generally examined citations as part of a system of rewards or as a rhetorical tool for strengthening arguments. This study examines both the role of citations as reward and as rhetoric. The reward system was examined by tracing over time the citation patterns of 13 research articles by two groups of scientists in chaos theory. The rhetorical practices were examined by determining how these articles were cited, by reviewing 609 citations of the 13 research articles. The analysis revealed that scientists consistently used five rhetorical practices. These practices include (1) using citations in the introduction, (2) using authors' names in the citation, (3) using the citation in a statement that asserts a high level of certainty, (4) using citations to create a research space (CARS), and (5) combining the authors' name with placement in the introduction. These features indicated the articles' centrality in scientific discourse.

Paul, Danette. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2000). Articles>Research>Rhetoric


In Search of Subtlety   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

What is the role of contradiction in organizational rhetoric? This article argues that existing research tends to focus on contradiction at an institutional level and then develop a distinct but complementary perspective that views contradictory rhetoric at an interactional level and as a practical concern, especially when routine is disrupted and repair tactics are required. Drawing on data from a study of a quality improvement initiative in the United Kingdom, the authors examine the contradictions that were constructed when a 'change champion' attempted to deal with resistance to change. They conclude by depicting how contradiction can emerge when actors reflexively shift their identifications to portray themselves and their actions in a contextually appropriate manner.

Whittle, Andrea, Frank Mueller and Anita Mangan. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Management>Organizational Communication>Rhetoric


Increasing a Reader's Interest and Comprehension Through Basic Information Design

If you present information in multiple media, with complementary information, that address multiple learning styles, you increase a reader’s interest and comprehension by 65%.

Corbin, Michelle. Carolina Communique (1999). Design>Publishing>Visual>Visual Rhetoric


Influence of Burke and Lessing on the Semiotic Theory of Document Design: Ideologies and Good Visual Images of Documents   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The syntactic aspect of semiotic theory, especially its "aesthetic principle," is very influential in document design theories and practices. It has its roots in Burke's and Lessing s gender-related theories of images. Thus, it is laden with ideologies: it embodies our patriarchal attitudes and our iconophobia. Employing the semiotic theory in document design, we are making choices to reinforce the gender-related ideology in Burke's and Lessing's theories. It is time for us to re-conceive the "aesthetic principle" by de-emphasizing it and to adopt the reconciliation approach to design effective documents targeted at various rhetorical situations.

Ding, Daniel D. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2000). Articles>Document Design>Visual Rhetoric>Theory


The Influence of High- and Low-Context Communication Styles On the Design, Content, and Language of Business-To-Business Web Sites   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Language and communication, especially high- versus low-context communication styles, have been shown to lead to differences in Web sites. Low-context communication provides the lowest common denominator for intercultural communication through the Internet by making messages linear, articulated, explicit, and therefore easier to understand in the absence of contextual clues. Based on theories of intercultural business communication and recent empirical studies, this article investigates how communication styles influence Web site design and content. It is hypothesized that, for the global audience, Web sites from low-context communication countries are easier to find, use colors and graphics more effectively, make navigation more user-friendly, contain more corporate and product information cues, and offer more contract- and relationship-related content than Web sites from high-context communication countries. This article also contributes to international business communication by investigating the choice of languages in business-to-business (B2B) Web sites. Empirical findings confirm the influence of high- versus low-context communication styles through systematic content analysis of 597 B2B Web sites in 57 countries. High-context communication style may be detrimental to the design of global Web sites, making them less readable, less effective in their use of colors and graphics, and less interactive for the globally dispersed users.

Usunier, Jean-Claude and Nicolas Roulin. JBC (2010). Articles>Web Design>Business Communication>Rhetoric


The Influence of the Purpose of a Business Document on Its Syntax and Rhetorical Schemes   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study attempts to show how the purpose of three types of business and technical documents (instructions, annual reports, and sales promotional letters) affects the syntactical and rhetorical choices authors make in writing these documents. While the results of the examination rendered some predictable results, there were some surprises in the absence of many rhetorical schemes in sales promotional letters. Another value of this study is that it provides partial syntactical and rhetorical "fingerprints" of three important documents in business and technical writing to offer students norms they can go by in constructing such documents.

Myers, Marshall. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>Business Communication>Rhetoric


Infographics as a Creative Assessment

Infographics are a visual representation of data. When students create infographics, they are using information, visual, and technology literacies. This page includes links to help you develop formative or summative assessments that have students creating infographics to showcase their mastery of knowledge.

Schrock, Kathy. SchrockGuide.net (2013). Articles>Education>Visual Rhetoric>Charts and Graphs


Information Design and Visual Communication

Over the past few decades information design has been in transition—moving from the creation of mainly paper-based communications to today’s mix of paper and electronic artifacts. Information designers’ repertoire must now include visual and verbal strategies for the Web. This shift in media compels us to ask what reading looks like in an electronic environment and to reconsider how people might engage with our content. To design effective electronic communications requires not only good writing and visual design but also an understanding of reading on the Web.

Schriver, Karen A. VideoLectures (2010). Presentations>Information Design>Visual Rhetoric>Video


Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change   (PDF)

We offer institutional critique as an activist methodology for changing institutions. Since institutions are rhetorical entities, rhetoric can be deployed to change them. In its effort to counter oppressive institutional structures, the field of rhetoric and com-position has focused its attention chiefly on the composition classroom, on the de-partment of English, and on disciplinary forms of critique. Our focus shifts the scene of action and argument to professional writing and to public discourse, using spatial methods adapted from postmodern geography and critical theory.

Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey T. Grabill and Libby Miles. CCC (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Institutionalizing English: Rhetoric on the Boundaries

Liberal historians tend to seek the disciplining of English in terms of the English department, as in Graff's account of people talking past each other while all finding shelter under the umbrella of a "humanist myth." While both these stories are useful (and in many ways, complementary), I want to examine disciplining of English into composition and literature by looking in relations English had with other disciplines, both within the new university, in that most defining feature of it, he specialization of disciplinary activity, and, indirectly, beyond the new university, in various social practices with English and its neighboring those disciplines interacted. Composition, I will argue, mediated those interactions in such a way that English was quite successful in its professionalization, but because composition was marginalized in crucial ways, its success was very limited.

Russell, David R. SUNY Press (2002). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Intercultural Rhetoric in the Technical Communication Curriculum: A Review of the Literature   (peer-reviewed)

Although many scholars in technical, professional, and business communication have argued for the inclusion of intercultural rhetoric and communication in technical communication curricula, several key tensions have emerged from this effort. These tensions center upon the competencies most necessary for graduates of our programs, as well as approaches for understanding and teaching intercultural communication. This literature review presents a discussion and critique of literature in the field based on articles collected from several major journals as well as book sections in the areas of technical, professional, and business communication; it also offers recommendations for further research and development in this area.

Scott, Jennifer Bracken. Rhetoric, Professional Communication, and Globalization (2010). Articles>Education>Rhetoric>Globalization


Interesting Names

Remember that writers are, by training and disposition, attracted to people and places with interesting names.

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


Internal Cliffhangers

What makes a page-turner, an irresistible read, a story or book that you can't put down? Well, lots of things. But one indispensable tool seems to be the internal cliffhanger.

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


Internal Communication: Let's Be Clear

Internal communication isn't generally seen as a direct, short-term contributor to the bottom line, and therefore it is not considered "hot." More to the point though, people's understanding of what communication is and how it can work is extremely varied and often plain wrong. It seems that what makes internal communication "hot" is still mainly understood only in professional communication circles.

Bogaard, Lindsay. Communication World Bulletin (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Rhetoric


International Visual Literacy Association

IVLA is a not-for-profit association of educators, artists, and researchers dedicated to the principles of visual literacy. IVLA was formed for the purpose of providing education, instruction and training in modes of visual communication and the application through the concept of visual literacy to individuals, groups, organizations, and to the public in general. Our members represent a wide range of disciplines including the arts, sciences, education, communication, business, videography, photography, instructional technology, health, and computer applications. We hope you will feel free to join us in the lively debates of our field, and we look forward to forming lasting professional and personal friendships.

International Visual Literacy Association. Organizations>Graphic Design>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Interpretation Within Audience Analysis Theories and the Crusade for True Empiricism

Audience analysis frameworks do not address an important aspect of communication in writer/audience relationships. This element is the humanistic aspect of cognitive processing, which encompasses emotional and cultural aspects. These elements exist on behalf of the writer as well as the reader, which without taking either into account lead us to a less than full understanding of how we can progress in our studies around this issue. We continue to study and theorize about how to improve interactions between writer and audience. Although current theories seem to add considerations important in the audience analysis process and the writer/audience relationship, there remains a need to find ways to address the truly empirical aspects of human interpretation.

Wolfe, Melissa. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory>Audience Analysis


An Introduction to Genre Theory

The word genre comes from the French (and originally Latin) word for 'kind' or 'class'. The term is widely used in rhetoric, literary theory, media theory, and more recently linguistics, to refer to a distinctive type of 'text'*. Robert Allen notes that 'for most of its 2,000 years, genre study has been primarily nominological and typological in function. That is to say, it has taken as its principal task the division of the world of literature into types and the naming of those types - much as the botanist divides the realm of flora into varieties of plants. However, the analogy with biological classification into genus and species misleadingly suggests a 'scientific' process.

Chandler, Daniel. University of Wales, Aberystwyth (1997). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Introduction to the Forum on Meaning/ful Work Studies in Organizational Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

On the first day of Nikki's undergraduate seminar, Organizing Work, she Oasks students to list the idioms and phrases commonly used to make sense of the 'work' experience. She shares the example of her father repeat- edly using the phrase 'daily grind' when she was growing up (important to note, he was not referring to the ubiquitous Starbucks of today). Slowly but surely, the chalkboard fills with an array of idiomatic expressions: 'on the clock,' 'work like a dog,' 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,' 'work your fingers to the bone,' 'all in a day's work,' and a host of others, including the Marxian favorite, 'a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.' Students are asked to reflect on the meanings embedded within the list and how language constitutes cultural meanings and values of work. As such an exercise should make abundantly clear, work and meaning would seem to be central to our study of organizational communication. Our talk about work both embodies and structures individual and social under- standings, attitudes, and actions. Yet, the meanings associated with work and the notion of work as meaningful have not been foci of study within our dis- cipline. Indeed, the term work is not even indexed in the New Handbook of Organizational Communication (Jablin and Putnam, 2001), and a search of the EBSCO database found not a single article with work and either meaning or meaningful in the title in a communication journal. Given contemporary devel- opments that make work more central to people's lives as well as less secure, the question of what work means to people and how such meanings contribute to or detract from a sense of purpose or dignity in people's lives is important to consider.

Zorn, Theodore E. and Nikki Townsley. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication>Rhetoric


An Introduction to Visual Communication   (PDF)

A reader's overall comprehension is best when text is appropriately combined with graphics in a document. This introductory workshop on visual communications explores different leaning styles and information mediums and examines how a communicator can best combine words with graphics to increase reader interest and comprehension. The workshop also examines basic rules of text and graphic design and finally discusses the appropriate integration of text and graphics.

Chiricosta, Tracey C. and Alice A. Jones. STC Proceedings (1993). Design>Document Design>Visual Rhetoric


The Irony Game: Assessing a Writer's Adaptation to an Opponent   (peer-reviewed)

The study of composition processes describes what writers do. The study of the art of composition describes methods for giving writers better control over what they do. This essay makes a contribution to both research concerns. It contributes to the study of composition processes by describing what ironists do when they refute an opponent. It contributes to the study of the art of composition by offering methods for giving writers better control over the adaptive strategies they use when attempting refutations.

Kaufer, David S. and Christine M. Neuwirth. JAC (1981). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Is Copyright Blind to the Visual?

This article argues that, with respect to the copyright protection of works of visual art, the general uneasiness that has always pervaded the relationship between copyright law and concepts of creativity produces three anomalous results. One of these is that copyright lacks much in the way of a central concept of 'visual art' and, to the extent that it embraces any concept of the 'visual', it is rooted in the rhetorical discourse of the Renaissance. This means that copyright is poorly equipped to deal with modern developments in the visual arts. Secondly, the pervasive effect of rhetorical discourse appears to have made it particularly difficult for copyright law to strike a meaningful balance between protecting creativity and permitting its use in further creative works. Thirdly, just when rhetorical discourse might have been useful in identifying the significance and materiality of the unique one-off work of visual art, copyright law chooses to ignore its implications.

Macmillan, Fiona. Visual Communication (2008). Articles>Intellectual Property>Copyright>Visual Rhetoric


It's a People Thing: The Switch to Reader-Centered Documents

One of the central causes of poor writing is a lack of a thorough understanding of the audience. What are the problems that readers have to solve, and how can we help them? Too many writers believe that people will understand what they have written just because the writers themselves understand it. Good writing always begins with a study of the readers' reading skills, their actual physical situation, the problems they face, the motivation they need, and the actions they need to take.

DuBay, William H. Impact Information (2003). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>User Centered Design


The Journal of Business and Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The Journal of Business and Technical Communcation keeps you informed about the latest communication practices, problems and trends in both business and academic settings. It covers written, oral and electronic communication in all areas of business, science and government. Created over a decade ago to meet the growing demand for research and analysis in this expanding field, JBTC covers topics of fundamental interest and key issues such as: managerial communication; collaborative writing; ethics of business communication; technical writing pedagogy; business-communication education; gender differences in writing; international communication; graphic design; ethnography and corporate culture.

Journal of Business and Technical Communication. Journals>TC>Business Communication>Rhetoric



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