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.



Argumenteren Over Lezersproblemen: Is Consensus Haalbaar?

Kunnen experts het met elkaar eens worden over de vraag of een lezersprobleem aannemelijk is en of dat probleem ernstig is? Uit menig onderzoek is gebleken dat beoordelaars sterk van elkaar verschillen in hun oordelen over tekstkwaliteit. In dit artikel wordt verslag gedaan van een poging om met behulp van de Delphi-methode consensus te bereiken tussen beoordelaars. In het eerste deel van het artikel wordt duidelijk dat op deze manier consensus niet haalbaar is, hoewel de mate van overeenstemming wel enigszins stijgt. In het tweede deel analyseren we de argumenten die beoordelaars aandragen voor de stelling dat een probleem (on)aannemelijk en wel of niet ernstig is. Vijf typen minder adequate argumentatiepatronen worden met behulp van voorbeelden toegelicht.

Lentz, Leo and Menno D.T. de Jong. Universiteit Stellenbosch Taalsentrum (2002). (Afrikaans) Articles>Rhetoric>TC


Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory as a Framework for Teaching Scientific and Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Classical rhetorical theory has been used for relatively discrete, practice-oriented purposes in its application to teaching Scientific and Technical Communication. However effective these appropriations are, they isolate these resources from a comprehensive framework and from that framework's role in shaping disciplinary practice. Because these theoretical assets are integral to each student's preparation to be an effective, responsible practitioner, I have developed and taught an upper level rhetorical theory course for STC majors that is grounded in Aristotle s <em>On Rhetoric</em> and in his understanding that effective communication is a systematic <em>tekhne</em>/art.

Newman, Sara. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>Education>TC>Rhetoric


Assessing Visualizations in Public Science Presentations   (PDF)

Natural resource agencies and other technical and scientific organizations face an immense challenge of when communicating complex technical information to diverse publics. The laptop computer, presentation software, and projection unit have emerged as one of the primary presentation tools in many technical and scientific fields. Advances in software functions enable presenters to capitalize on a wide range of multimedia functions thought to make presentations more appealing, interesting, and effective. Our presentation reports on a specific research project and then provides guidance for enhancing their presentations.

Zimmerman, Donald E., Carol A. Akerelrea, Jane Kapler Smith and Garrett O'Keefe. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Presentations>Visual Rhetoric


Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology (ARST)

ARST was founded in 1992 with the hope of providing a forum for researchers and teachers in the area of the rhetoric of science and technology. Since then, ARST has hosted day-long conferences in conjunction with the annual meetings of National Communication Association (NCA). In addition, ARST acts as an interest group of NCA to host panels and papers within the conference itself. Originally called the American Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology, in November 2006 members voted unanimously to rename the organization to the Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology in order to better reflect the international nature of its membership and intellectual concerns.

ARST. Organizations>Rhetoric>Technology>Scientific Communication


Audience Analysis Overview

In order to compose persuasive, user-centered communication, you should gather as much information as possible about the people reading your document. Your audience may consist of different people who may have different needs and expectations. In other words, you may have a complex audience in all the stages of your document's lifecycle—the development stage, the reading stage, and the action stage.

Purdue University (2012). Articles>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Audience Analysis the Easy Way   (Word)

Audience analysis is more often a process of guesswork than of an in-depth inquiry into the mind and activities of the user. In fact, it is pretty easy to analyze your audience without having to do any research. Essentially, there are only two things that technical writers need ask themselves during the audience-analysis phase: what does the user know about the thing I am writing about? And what does the user want to know about the thing I am writing about?

Docsymmetry (2003). Articles>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Audience and Document Analysis

Before you begin editing a document, try to find out as much as you can about the audience for the document and purpose of the document.

Hollis Weber, Jean. Technical Editors Eyrie (2001). Articles>Writing>Audience Analysis>Rhetoric


Backpacks vs. Briefcases: Steps Toward Rhetorical Analysis

Students are digital natives who spend their days saturated in rhetorical messages that they have learned to decode quite well – for example, they can easily size up an instructor within moments of walking into the classroom. As students look at various messages from fashion advertising to political campaigning, they often decode and make sound rhetorical conclusions about these messages. This chapter helps students understand the rhetorical skills they already possess, transfer these skills to classroom projects, and become familiar with basic terms of rhetorical analysis used in the academy.

Carroll, Laura Bolin. Writing Spaces (2010). Articles>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric>Education


Bakhtin, Vygotsky, Composition, and Rhetoric

The Bakhtin/Vygotsky listserv invites subscribers to post information relevant to Bakhtin/Vygotsky scholarship, including announcements of publications, conferences, seminars, calls for papers, etc.

Zappen, James P. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Resources>Mailing Lists>Rhetoric


Basic Communication Theory

In the 1940's researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories devised a model of the process of human communication. This model consists of numeous elements.

Malik, Suman Lata. Technical Communications Group (2000). Books>Rhetoric>Theory


Beetle Bailey and Presentation Skills

An audience, whether it is one person or many, wants speakers to provide maximum relevant information, delivered in minimum time and in the clearest possible terms, centered on the needs and concerns of the audience.

Tracy, Larry. Klariti (2005). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Behind the Scenes of Scientific Debating

In analysing a scientific debate, there are at least two types of relevant information. One is the debate itself, experienced first hand or via a transcript. Another is what can be called backstage information, which includes the debaters’ preparations, plans, notes, thinking and reservoir of arguments and responses. Familiarity with backstage information can provide insights for understanding the dynamics of the debate. Often, the only individuals with much backstage information are the debaters themselves, plus perhaps one or two advisers or close friends. An observer of the debate seldom has access to backstage information. The next best thing, then, is generalisations based on backstage experience with debates of a similar nature.

Martin, Brian. University of Wollongong (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Being Good for Goodness' Sake: Corporate Social Responsibility Imagery

It sees you when you’re sleeping. It knows if you’re awake. 'It' is the world, and it knows if your company has been naughty or nice. The digital revolution has put a photographic device, be it a camera or camera-phone, in the hands of virtually everybody everywhere—so you can be sure someone besides Santa is constantly watching your company’s behavior. For that and other good reasons, corporate photography is looking very green this season.

Salvo, Suzanne. Communication World Bulletin (2007). Design>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric


Beware of Adverbs

Beware of adverbs. They can dilute the meaning of the verb or repeat it.

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


Beyond Economics: Intersections and Opportunities with Adam Smith in the Writing and Rhetoric Classroom

My paper will focus on how the reconsiderations and explorations of Smith’s two best known and most published works are important not only for economists, business students, and rhetoric scholars but also offer opportunities for writing instructors seeking to connect with students in writing classrooms.

Smith-Sitton, Lara. Xchanges (2011). Articles>Education>Rhetoric>Writing


Beyond Persuasion: The Rhetoric of Negotiation in Business Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This essay describes and provides a rationale for the Rhetoric of Negotiation as a useful frame for what is typically considered persuasion in business communication. It argues for a broader understanding of the opposition and draws from Eckhouse’s work on business communication as a competitive activity as well as Booth’s concept of Win-Rhetoric versus Listening-Rhetoric. Using illustrations from the author’s previous research, this commentary proposes that the Rhetoric of Negotiation is useful in business communication for both ethical and practical reasons.

King, Cynthia L. JBC (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Rhetoric


Beyond Star Flashes: The Elements of Web 2.0 Style   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In his “Web 2.0 How-to Design Guide,” Ben Hunt identifies the stylistic elements shared by Web 2.0 sites, including “star flashes,” circular badges reminiscent of sale price stickers. However, Hunt's approach to style is limited to cataloging surface features. A site designed using his guide would certainly look like Flickr, YouTube, or LibraryThing but might not employ the approach or functionality of those sites. While composition teachers can and should embrace Web 2.0, we must do so critically, by considering what Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner would call the “conceptual stand” of Web 2.0, its fundamentals of writer, reader, thought, language, and their relationships. This approach to style recognizes that separating style and substance, however convenient, is misleading. In this essay, I map the conceptual stand of Web 2.0, providing a structure for critically evaluating sites that claim the “2.0” moniker. Given these elements of Web 2.0 style, composition teachers can better understand, employ, and engage Web 2.0 in teaching and scholarship.

Dilger, Bradley. Computers and Composition (2010). Articles>Web Design>Education>Rhetoric


Beyond the Screen: Visualizing Visits to a Website as an Experience in Physical Space   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article describes an applied investigation into a concept of information visualization where data are not rendered as graphs, charts or diagrams on the screen but as a sensual experience beyond the screen in physical space. It introduces predecessors such as calm technologies and ambient displays among a number of poetic and applied examples from related backgrounds to establish the context and relevance for communication design and graphic design, and presents a current research undertaking in which the social activity of visiting a website is visualized in multiple sensorial modalities in real-time in the form of a kinetic and sensual display.

Hohl, Michael. Visual Communication (2009). Articles>Web Design>Visual Rhetoric>Log Analysis


"Big Picture People Rarely Become Historians": Genre Systems and the Contradictions of General Education

This study synthesizes Y. Engeström's version of cultural historical activity theory and North American genre systems theory to explore the problem of specialized discourses in activities that involve non-specialists, in this case students in a university 'general education' course in Irish history struggling to write the genres of professional academic history. We trace the textual pathways (genre systems) that mediate between the activity systems (and motives) of specialist teachers and the activity systems (and motives) of non-specialist students. Specifically, we argue that the specialist/lay contradiction in U.S. general education is embedded in historical practices in the modern university, and manifested in alienation that students often experience through the writing requirements in general education courses. This historical contradiction also makes it difficult for instructors to make writing meaningful for non-specialists and go beyond fact-based, rote instruction to mediate higher-order learning through writing. However, our analysis of the Irish History course suggests this alienation may be overcome when students, with the help of their instructors, see the textual pathways (genre systems) of specialist discourse leading to useful knowledge/skill in their activity systems beyond the course as specialists in other fields or as citizens.

Russell, David R. and Arturo Yanez. WAC Clearinghouse (2002). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Blind and Low Vision Users

When we come to accessibility of web design, we will say that accessible web design is a sign of good web design. A lot of the information on the Web is not accessible to people with disabilities because of poor design. While many web site managers and developers accommodate various browser constraints, most of them do not realize that they are developing sites that people with disabilities have difficulty in navigating, or in many cases, cannot navigate at all.

Hung, Edward. Universal Usability. Design>Usability>Accessibility>Visual Rhetoric


Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog

The weblog phenomenon raises a number of rhetorical issues, including the peculiar intersection of the public and private that weblogs seem to invite.

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


Boundary Objects as Rhetorical Exigence: Knowledge Mapping and Interdisciplinary Cooperation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article uses qualitative material gathered at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to construct a model of the rhetorical activity that occurs at the boundaries between diverse communities of practice working on complex sociotechnical systems. The authors reinterpret the notion of the boundary object current in science studies as a rhetorical construct that can foster cooperation and communication among the diverse members of heterogeneous working groups. The knowledge maps constructed by team members at LANL in their work on technical systems are boundary objects that can replace the demarcation exigence that so often leads to agonistic rhetorical boundary work with an integrative exigence. The integrative exigence realized by the boundary object of the knowledge map can help create a temporary trading zone characterized by rhetorical relations of symmetry and mutual understanding. In such cases, boundary work can become an effort involving integration and understanding rather than contest, controversy, and demarcation.

Wilson, Greg and Carl G. Herndl. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Collaboration>Rhetoric


Branch to the Right

Begin sentences with subjects and verbs, letting subordinate elements branch to the right. Even a long, long sentence can be clear and powerful when the subject and verb make meaning early.

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


Bright Words, Dull Words, and Snags: A Theory of Technical Writing   (PDF)

While all words on the page should be necessary, not every word carries the same importance. Yet words compete for attention, and depending on what they mean to readers, one word may make a greater impression than another. As writers, we must express what’s important with bright words. We must tone down what’s not important and express them with dull words. We must avoid snags, words that distract, confuse, or interfere in any way with the smooth transfer of information.

Palkovic, Lawrence A. STC Proceedings (1995). Presentations>Writing>Rhetoric


Building a Better Style Guide   (PDF)

Why are style guides so frequently created, but so rarely successful? All too often, businesses ask for a style guide as a means to create a common look and feel, in the belief that it will solve usability problems and establish consistency between applications – only to be disappointed in the results. Even if such a style guide is followed carefully, the resulting interfaces may not meet usability goals.. This paper explores strategies for creating a style guide that is more than a simplistic rules book. By making the style guide part of the process, it can be used to promote a shared vision, to help the product meet business and usability requirements for consistency and…it may actually be used.

Quesenbery, Whitney. Usability Professionals Association (2001). Articles>Style Guides>Rhetoric>Usability



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