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.



Reality TV Meets Presentation Fears: A Shrinkrapp

It is important to focus on one’s thoughts when approaching presentations. Often these thoughts can be based on myths: widely held beliefs that just are not true.

Lee, Scott. Presenters University (2003). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Reconsidering the Role of Plain Style in Technical Writing

According to the technical writing textbook used in the Introductory to Technical Writing class I teach, there are two purposes and at least five audiences of technical documents. Yet students are taught only one style of writing to satisfy all writing situations: the plain style. This essay examines the history and current state of plain style's role in technical writing. It further discusses plain style's relation to rhetorical and instrumental approaches to technical communication, and finally offers writing teachers a new approach to plain style and instrumental language in technical writing.

Campbell, Jill. Orange Journal, The (2002). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article develops a rhetorical theory of delivery for Internet-based communications. Delivery, one of the five key canons of classical rhetoric, is still an important topic for rhetorical analysis and production. However, delivery needs to be re-theorized for the digital age. In Part 1, the article notes the importance of delivery in traditional rhetoric and argues that delivery should be viewed as a form of rhetorical knowledge (techne). Part 2 presents a theoretical framework for “digital delivery” consisting of five key topics—Body/Identity, Distribution/Circulation, Access/Accessibility, Interaction, and Economics—and shows how each of these topics can function strategically and heuristically to guide digital writing.

Porter, James E. Computers and Composition (2009). Articles>Rhetoric>Assessment>Online



A directory of links to resources in rhetoric and technical communication.

Nuopponen, Anita. Vaasan Yliopisto. (Finnish) Resources>Directories>Rhetoric


Reflections on an Icon Development Process: Negotiating Design Issues   (PDF)

Technical communicators with visual design skills increasingly are called upon to help design of the 'look and feel' of software interfaces, including icons and toolbar buttons. Several practitioners in technical communication have developed useful guides for developing icons and toolbar buttons. Unfortunately, sometimes the application of these guidelines is complicated by issues that arise within the contexts of specific software development environments. This paper briefly reviews research and guidelines. It then reviews issues that might arise during the development process and guidelines for negotiating them based on the author’s experiences developing icons at two different software firms.

Hunt, Kevin. STC Proceedings (1996). Design>Graphic Design>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Reflective Assessment

These documents, referenced in my 2013 article “Examining the effect of reflective assessment on the quality of visual design.” (Technical Communication Quarterly 22. 172-190), are linked here.

Lauer, Claire. ClaireLauer.com (2013). Resources>Education>TC>Visual Rhetoric



Procrastination can be productive.

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


The Relevance of Feenberg's Critical Theory of Technology to Critical Visual Literacy: The Case of Scientific and Technical Illustrations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Andrew Feenberg's critical theory of technology is an underutilized, relatively unknown resource in technical communication which could be exploited not only for its potential clarification of large social issues that involve our discipline, but also specifically toward the development of a critical theory of illustrations. Applications of critical theory help strengthen our discipline by forcing us to delineate extant approaches and consider whether democratic goals are being achieved through those approaches. If a critical theory of illustrations can be built from Feenberg's critical theory of technology, it should be useful for classroom instructors and researchers as well as theorists.

Northcut, Kathryn M. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Visual Rhetoric>Technical Illustration


Remembering Your Reader in Web Design

Technology advancements have allowed for many improvements and enhancements in web design. Drastic changes have been made concerning programming, development, and available features. From flash animations, to blog pages, forums, and live chat, website designers have a multitude of design elements that can be added to their websites. Multimedia products such as audio, video, and podcasts are some of the other advancements in web design. One thing that has not changed, however, is the website readers. Successful website developers know and understand this concept, and apply it to every website that they design.

Haig, Anders. ReEncoded (2008). Articles>Web Design>Rhetoric>Audience Analysis


Rendering Technical Communication: Toward a First Philosophy of First Principles   (PDF)

This presentation examines a tension—common to students, practitioners, and academics—central to answering some form of the question ‘what is technical communication?’ The tension can arise in the attempt to provide a concise yet sufficient answer that embodies the variety of either the skills used in preparing technical communication, or the types of technical communication produced. Principles of classical rhetoric are useful in examining this communicative tension, and the role of first principles in technical communication is scrutinized. From this the formulation of a first philosophy of first principles is attempted toward addressing the popular communicative tension.

Stone, Ronald L. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>TC>Rhetoric


Renforcer sa Crédibilité

Sur Internet, n'importe qui est en mesure d'éditer plus ou moins n'importe quoi. Dans certains secteurs, la crédibilité du contenu prend une importance particulièrement centrale.

Redaction (2004). Design>Web Design>Rhetoric



Repetition works in stories, but only if you intend it. The repetition of key words, phrases, and story elements creates a rhythm, a pace, a structure, a drumbeat that reinforces the central theme of the work.

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


Research-Based Guidelines For Visual Interface Design   (PDF)

Whether it is for a help system, a multimedia training product, or a software application, there are two key elements needed for good screen design: knowledge of the applicable research, and the ability to balance aesthetic appeal with functionality. This paper focuses on research into the specific human factors that affect how users interact with the visual display of information, and provides guidelines for how to apply the research results. The author adds information from his own interface design and usability testing experiences at Microsoft.

Prekeges, James G. STC Proceedings (1994). Presentations>User Interface>Multimedia>Visual Rhetoric


Resources for Teaching and Working with the Visual Aspects of Texts

An online guide that explains color theory and shows how to use it in design through examples and exercises.

Poynter Institute, The (2001). Articles>Education>Visual Rhetoric>Color


Resources of Ambiguity: Context, Narrative, and Metaphor in Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene illustrates the power of ambiguity in scientific discourse. The rhetorical and epistemic resources that ambiguity provide are most apparent at the level of metaphor but are also central to the exigency for Dawkins’s argument and to the narrative form that the argument takes. Using ratios derived from Burke’s dramatistic pentad, I analyze how ambiguous language helped Dawkins to link different theoretical conceptions of the gene and consequently posit connections between genes and organisms that had not yet been empirically established. I thus demonstrate at a conceptual and textual level how ambiguity contributes to the construction of novel scientific arguments. For Dawkins, ambiguity provided a discursive space in which he could speculate on connections and developments for which he did not yet have evidence, data, or terminology. Despite his insistence that his use of figurative motive language was simply a ‘‘convenient shorthand’’ for more technical language, The Selfish Gene demonstrates the powerful epistemological and rhetorical role that ambiguous metaphors play in biological discourse.

Journet, Debra. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Rhetoric


Resume Design

This handout offers advice making informed design choices in creating a resume. We also have a sample resume that uses these design principles.

Purdue University (2004). Careers>Resumes>Document Design>Visual Rhetoric


Rethinking Genre in School and Society: An Activity Theory Analysis   (peer-reviewed)

This article attempts to expand and elaborate theories of social 'context' and formal schooling, to understand the stakes involved in writing. It first sketches ways Russian activity theory in the tradition of A. N. Leont'ev may expand Bakhtinian dialogism, then elaborates the theory in terms of North American genre research, with examples drawn from research on writing in the disciplines in higher education. By tracing the relations of disciplinary genre systems to educational genre systems, through the boundary of the classroom genre system, the analyst/reformer can construct a model of the interactions of classroom practices with wider social practices. Activity theory analysis of genre systems may offer a theoretical bridge between the sociology of education and Vygotskian social psychology of classroom interaction, and contribute toward resolving the knotty problem of the relation of macro- and microstructure in literacy research based on various social theories of 'context.'

Russell, David R. Written Communication (1997). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory>Rhetoric


Rethinking Loci Communes and Burkean Transcendence   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In situations of potential business change, the cooperation of various direct and indirect stakeholders (i.e., employees, customers, shareholders, neighbors) is crucial. The alternative policy courses may all be reasonable, and yet none of them may be clearly best for all stakeholders; support for an option must be cultivated through public rhetoric. Loci communes and Burkean transcendence are two potent rhetorical strategies that can help business leaders publicly weigh and civilly advocate a policy position relative to competing alternatives. This article develops and illustrates that argument by analyzing the public rhetoric involved in AirTran's attempt to build support for its hostile takeover of Midwest Airlines and Midwest's successful resistance to that attempt. Midwest's deft development of the transcendent term value helped it circumvent the initial deadlock between its preferred loci communes (i.e., the existent and quality) and AirTran's (i.e., the possible and quantity). The article advances a rationale and call for rhetorical scholarship to adopt more situated, social practice views of loci communes and transcendence.

Olson, Kathryn M. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Rhetoric>Civic


Rethinking the Design of Overheads: Moving from Verbal to Visual

PowerPoint's default designs tend to produce minimal text, which has limited communicative value.

Kahn, Russell L. SUNY Institute of Technology (2008). Presentations>Information Design>Presentations>Rhetoric


Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides

Summary, models, and templates of a new design of slides for technical presentations. This design is fully documented in Chapter 4 of The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer, 2003).

Alley, Michael. Pennsylvania State University (2004). Articles>Presentations>Information Design>Visual Rhetoric


Retórica Visual

La existencia del lenguaje visual propicia el concepto de y retórica u oratoria visual. Al igual que su contrapartida hablada, la visual tiene sus propias figuras y su forma de utilizarlas.

Dursteler, Juan Carlos. InfoVis (2003). (Spanish) Articles>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Reveal Character Traits

Reveal character traits to the reader through scenes, details, and dialogue.

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



A resource portal for researchers and practitioners of rhetoric and composition.

Levy, Matthew A. Rhetcomp.com (2001). Resources>Writing>Rhetoric



The journal of the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric.

Rhetor. Journals>Rhetoric


Rhetoric and Communication Links

Provides a Canadian perspective on the field of technical and professional communication.

MacLennan, Jennifer. University of Saskatchewan (2002). Resources>Directories>TC>Rhetoric



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