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.



Pre-Writing and Outlining

If there’s a single step in writing that makes the process easier, it’s right here. Ask yourself this question: Why does a writing task -- whether a memorandum or document -- seem to come together easily for one writer and not for another? Well, one answer is the successful writer spends more time planning than writing. I call this my pre-writing time, or phase, and for me the planning phase is actually pre-writing.

Tech-Writer. Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Prefer Simple to Technical

Prefer the simple to the technical: shorter words and paragraphs at the points of greatest complexity.

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


Prepare Web Content and Organization For Your Audience

Communicators must know whether the audience consists of viewers, users or readers before selecting, writing and organizing content.

Writing that Works (2003). Articles>Web Design>Rhetoric>Writing


Preparing for a Crisis: Tips on Writing a Crisis Communication Plan   (PDF)

A crisis communication plan details how a company will operate in a crisis. It should include sections on potential crises and strategies for managing a crisis using a crisis management team. The plan should include details on the team's functions, training for the team members and the company spokesperson, and use of a crisis management center and a media center. The plan should address implementation of practice drills and an evaluation of each drill and actual crisis.

Molony, S.T. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Risk Communication>Rhetoric>Crisis Communication


"Prescriptive" Audience Analysis: Moving Beyond the Purely Descriptive

Editing and writing both require an understanding of our audience, because without that knowledge, we can't shape our words to help them easily grasp difficult concepts. To understand our audience, we do what all writers and editors do, whether consciously or unconsciously: We create an image of our audience that guides our choice of words, images, and metaphors. This image is variously known as a 'stereotype' or a 'persona'. Keeping that image in mind as we work helps us satisfy the reader's needs, but if we're not careful, it can also cause us to waste valuable time collecting information that doesn't really help us communicate.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. TECHWR-L (2003). Articles>Writing>Editing>Rhetoric


Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society   (peer-reviewed)

Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society is a peer-reviewed, blind-refereed, online journal dedicated to exploring contemporary social, cultural, political and economic issues through a rhetorical lens. In addition to examining these subjects as found in written, oral and visual texts, we wish to provide a forum for calls to action in academia, education and national policy.

Present Tense. Journals>Rhetoric


Presentaciones Conceptuales

Las presentaciones tienden a ser más visuales y menos textuales. Convertir cada concepto en una imagen es el reto y, a la vez, la solución.

Dursteler, Juan Carlos. InfoVis (2003). (Spanish) Presentations>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric>Technical Illustration


Presentation Skills Training: A Matter of Personality and Outcomes

It was simply a matter of a web link or two and literally hundreds of trainees joined me online from all around the country. All in all, pretty easy and convenient and the price was right-- free. The topics were related to presentation design concepts and I knew going into it that the medium would be right for some, but unfortunately, dead wrong for others. Contrast that with another training venue coming up in a few weeks. Three presentation team members from a large consumer products company will be flying into Portland, Oregon for a day's worth of hands-on presentation design training. End of year budget utilization issues made that possible and I absolutely know that they will walk away with highly practical skills. So who got the best training value? The answer just might surprise you. Training is a personal matter but also a very practical one. When we approach training topics related to presentation design, message development, delivery skills and technology, the venues available for training are numerous. The bigger question is which ones are right for you and your learning style and of course, which options will your budgets support? With a rush to slash travel and off site training, the web is being viewed in overly glamorous terms for meaningful training deployment. Here are the trade offs.

Endicott, Jim. Presenters University (2003). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Presentation Traps 1: Hazardous Comparisons

In your presentation, usually at the beginning in the motivation part, a slide appears, and on that slide you compare your method to previous state of the art methods, or methods widely accepted and recognised as adequate by practitioners in the field. Of course, you carefully chose the topics of comparison to ensure your work appears superior... This is a trap. The author explains why.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Presentation Traps 2: Forced Audience Interaction

“Probe the audience”, “Interact with the audience”, the pundits say. And out on a limb they go, the misfortunate presenters for whom good advice but poor timing garner nothing but the deathly silence of an unsympathetic audience. Do not rush the audience into action. An audience that has had time to be interested in both the presenter and his topic is easier to engage. By the time the talk ends, the audience is ready to interact through the Q&A: the time is right, and the audience is ready.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Presentation Traps 6: The Conclusion Traps

You are in danger of falling into one of three conclusion traps. 1. Your conclusion slide is a summary of your results. 2. You know you are close to the end of your talk, everything has been said, and you rush through that slide, simply reading its bullets. 3. You do a great job with your conclusion slide, and after clicking one last time the next slide button on your presentation remote, you land into one of the following slides: a) the black screen indicating the end of your presentation (a PowerPoint feature); b) the traditional Acknowledgment slide; or c) a black slide on which the words “Thank You” are written in Font size 88 – for good luck The author explains why.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


The Process of Writing: A Philosophical Base in Hermeneutics   (peer-reviewed)

There is no doubt that among those concerned with composition and the teaching of writing, one of the dominant concerns is the process of writing. Anyone who has attended the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication in the past five years can attest to this fact. Indeed, writing across the curriculum and the process method of teaching composition are probably the two most important innovations in the field of composition in the past ten years. Whole programs have been restructured to enable teachers to teach by the process method. At my own institution, John Ruszkiewicz added this dimension to an already fairly elaborate composition program. Many of us who have been teaching composition for a good number of years have substantially altered our own techniques of teaching to incorporate more process emphasis.

Kinneavy, James L. JAC (1987). Articles>Rhetoric>Methods


Purpose and Composition Theory: Issues in the Research   (peer-reviewed)

Unlike audience and context, rhetorical purpose has not been the subject of concentrated, comprehensive research. For example, we do not have a bibliographic overview of purpose as we do for audience (Coney; Ede, “Audience”), and we have not explored the meaning of purpose as we have audience (Park; Kroll; Ede and Lunsford) and context (Brandt; Piazza). However, we need answers to a number of questions concerning purpose. How is it defined? Is it a synonym for goal, intention, end, or aim, as certain research seems to suggest? If so, do these terms differ at all; and if not, what does purpose mean and how does it figure in our theory and pedagogy? Answering questions such as these would assist all composition specialists by encouraging more informed research and teaching about the rhetoric of purpose. In the following article, I begin the task of surveying research on purpose. Although not an exhaustive bibliographic survey, this article can serve as an introduction to the subject.

Blyler, Nancy. JAC (1989). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Purpose in Writing

Before you write one word, you need to know what you want your writing to accomplish. Are you conveying information to the general public? Reporting on a recent project? Do you want your readers to do something when they finish reading? If you aren't sure what your purpose in writing is, your writing will not be clear.

WordsWork. Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory

A classical discussion of how to speak appropriately to audiences.

Honeycutt, Lee. Iowa State University (2003). Books>Rhetoric


Quotations Give You Wisdom of the Ages

Quotations allow you to tap a wealth of wisdom and ideas that have survived the test of time, or caught your attention amid information overload. They also give credibility to the speaker's points. But you must take care in choosing and using others' words.

Writing that Works (2003). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Rabbit Trails, Ephemera, and Other Stories: Feminist Methodology and Collaborative Research

As a basis for our exploration, we have analyzed our own experiences to date in four ongoing collaborative research groups. In using self-reflective critique as our method of analysis, we are keenly aware that the evolving nature of these collaborative groups has influenced the construction of our arguments here. And, conversely, we realize that our critique may in turn influence the evolution of these groups. Moreover, we recognize as a formative constraint our interest in preserving and continuing to work with colleagues in these groups. Plainly stated, we continually asked ourselves, 'Will the colleagues in our collaborative groups ever speak to us again after reading this article?' Because of this concern, we shared drafts with all of these colleagues, asked for their comments, and provided an opportunity for them to offer alternative interpretations.

Burnett, Rebecca E. and Helen Rothschild Ewald. JAC (1994). Articles>Rhetoric>Collaboration


Re-Examine Your Skills And Incorporate New Ideas To Keep Fresh

Anyone who has ever sat in an audience knows it's all too easy to watch a presentation and come away with – not much. The problem might be the content, or perhaps the technology used, but most likely the fault lies with the presenter. Although all speakers strive for brilliance, it's all too easy to be seen as dull or arrogant. So how does one avoid these labels when presenting? By continually looking for ways to change your presentation style. This is not always easy, since frequent presenters eventually develop a style that works for them in just about any setting. But it never hurts to re-analyze your skills and incorporate new ideas to keep fresh and in touch with your audience. Here are a few suggestions to consider when your style needs some dusting off.

Bingham, Chris. Presentations (2002). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Re: Writing

A collection of online resources affiliated with Bedford/St. Martin's writing and rhetoric textbooks.

Bedford-St. Martin's. Resources>Education>Rhetoric>Writing


(Re)Constructing Arguments: Classical Rhetoric and Roman Engineering Reflected in Vitruvius' De Architectura   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Augustus is often described as the emperor who transformed Rome from a city of brick to a city of marble. When he returned victorious to Rome in BCE 29, Augustus embarked on a project to rebuild Rome with the splendor its new imperial status demanded. Despite the tranquility and prosperity enjoyed by most Romans during the Early Empire, many also felt a sense of loss. Much had changed in their social order at the end of the Republic. The nobility and the lower classes began to share more interests and Roman society took on a more egalitarian and commercial nature. Under Emperor Augustus, the function of rhetoric was stripped from legislative arenas and confined mainly to legal courts and ceremonial competitions. In the spirit of renewed patriotism and pragmatism, principles of rhetoric were also applied to writing about technical subjects, such as engineering and architecture. Both Vitruvius and Cicero used his writing to persuade Roman citizens to reclaim their heritage: of building arts in Vitruvius case; of philosophy and meaningful public oratory in Cicero s case.

Longo, Bernadette. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>History>Italy


Read It! A Poem for Writers

A link to this little-known poem is hidden in the 'About us' panel in the left column of the linked page. It was written around the time that I first conceived of creating The Research Cooperative -- a not-for-profit (NPO) online meeting place for academic research writers, editors, translators, illustrators, and publishers. The poem emphasizes the creative and contemplative aspects of academic writing, and has been posted on the Research Cooperative as a kind of founding or guiding text for the site. It is one thing for an organization or website to have a definite or objective 'mission statement' (we have one too), but it is also good to indicate aims in a more personal manner that allows people to see some humanity behind the organization or technology.

Matthews, Peter J. Research Cooperative, The (2002). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Reading Darwin, Reading Nature; or, On the Ethos of Historical Science   (PDF)

Darwin must be read and reread, interpreted and reinterpreted. We find this attention to a body of work that is well over a hundred years old to be highly unusual and worth investigating.

Miller, Carolyn R. and S. Michael Halloran. North Carolina State University (1993). Articles>Scientific Communication>History>Rhetoric


Reading Minds: The Book as a Communicational Space (Practice + Pedagogy)   (PDF)

Book designers research, compile and interpret information that helps them to determine the various formal attributes of the book. What size should it be? What format should it have? What should be the approach to the cover design, the typography, and the structure of the layout? The selected attributes may make certain impressions, on the potential reader, about the nature of the content. These impressions are interpretations of meaning which may create expectations about the character of the book, its content and style of writing. In other words, the formal attributes give the book a certain 'visual identity' which is intended to represent to the reading public, in a carefully selected visual language, the 'essence' of the author’s work.

Colberg, Susan. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Typography>Visual Rhetoric


Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts

In this study, reading performance with four white space layouts was compared. Margins surrounding the text and leading (space between lines) were manipulated to generate the four white space conditions. Results show that the use of margins affected both reading speed and comprehension in that participants read the Margin text slower, but comprehended more than the No Margin text. Participants were also generally more satisfied with the text with margins. Leading was not shown to impact reading performance but did influence overall user preference.

Chaparro, Barbara S., J. Ryan Baker, A. Dawn Shaikh, Spring S. Hull and Laurie Brady. Usability News (2004). Design>Web Design>Typography>Visual Rhetoric


Reading Your Audience   (PDF)

Discusses ways that public speakers can adjust to the body language and visual cues of their audiences.

Walinskas, Karl. Intercom (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Presentations



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