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.



Rhetoric and Community Service

In this course, you will extend your critical and rhetorical skills beyond the classroom and the library into the world of community action and service by working or volunteering at least two hours a week at a local nonprofit community service agency or group (dealing, for example, with homeless outreach, adult literacy, tutoring inner-city children, elder care, AIDS support, drug rehabilitation, domestic violence, environmental issues, or civil rights issues). Up to one hour a week on-site may be used to gather information for assignmen

Locker, Kitty O. Ohio State University, The. Academic>Courses>Graduate>Rhetoric


Rhetoric and Technical Communication

The Greek word for persuasion derives from the Greek verb 'to believe' Therefore, we can see that rhetoric may be argumentative but also expository (modes of discourse that seek to win acceptance of information or explanation). This understanding is critical for those of us who seek to accommodate technology or science to a user.

Coppola, Nancy W. New Jersey Institute of Technology. Academic>Courses>Graduate>Rhetoric


Rhetoric and Technical Communication   (PDF)   (members only)

Technical communicators think mostly in terms of the message conveyed, writes Barker. Here he encourages writers to instead think rhetorically and evaluate the context of the message as well.

Barker, Thomas. Intercom (2010). Articles>TC>Rhetoric


Rhetoric and Technical/Professional Communication

A page of links to resources in rhetoric, technical and professional communication.

Smith, Tania S. University of Calgary (2003). Resources>Directories>TC>Rhetoric


The Rhetoric of Critical Procedures

One important aspect of technical writing is the production and use of procedures. Though technical writing serves a variety of purposes, teaching, informing, persuading, and even questioning, one of its primary and most common purposes is the 'how-to' function of providing procedures. There is a great deal of information available on writing procedures, the vast majority of it focusing on software documentation and product documentation.

Boelter, Walter H. Orange Journal, The (2003). Articles>Documentation>Rhetoric>Technical Writing


The Rhetoric of Decision Science, or Herbert A. Simon Says   (PDF)

The tools of decision science are widely used and accepted in industrial and governmental decision making. But...

Miller, Carolyn R. North Carolina State University (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


The Rhetoric of Design: Implications for Corporate Intranets   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Sound structure and visual appeal are as important in attracting users to an intranet as the content itself because deliberate organizational and visual design allows users to navigate the site effectively and therefore helps users find the intranet a useful addition to their work flow rather than a burdensome one. In addition, by employing sound design principles, intranet developers will turn random facts filed away in databases or on servers into useful information, thus helping the intranet achieve its purpose as a medium for communicating and facilitating work processes in an organization. Unfortunately, design is an element that is sometimes overlooked in intranet development. To help developers better utilize design as an effective rhetorical tool in intranet development, this article examines issues such as creating form that is appropriate to function, determining audience needs and wants, and implementing structural and visual design principles. Intranet developers are often not professional comm

Jackson, Lisa Ann. Technical Communication Online (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>Information Design


The Rhetoric of Flash

Flash, by Macromedia, is a program designed to create graphics and interactivity for the World Wide Web. Its primary characteristics are moving text, sounds attached to that text and/or to navigational buttons, links, and mouseovers. Flash, for this reason, has been compared to television -- indeed, a web page generated in Flash often seems as if it would be equally at home on a stereo-surroundsound, high-definition TV. But there's a catch. . . . After going through the site a few times, the viewer might well discover that his or her choices are limited to those programmed into the site. But it's likely that the site's entertainment value -- as well as its multi-layered rhetorical messages -- will far outweigh any feelings of deception. . . which is, in itself, a monumental rhetorical statement.

Clark, Tracy. Purdue University (2003). Design>Web Design>Rhetoric>Flash


A Rhetoric of Objects

The Web demands a new rhetoric for communicators, transforming traditional modern and classical ideas of audience, invention, arrangement, style, delivery, memory, and ethos. This paper sketches a rhetoric that analyzes customized, personalized object-oriented content, delivered in many formats and media, as part of a continuous conversation.

Price, Jonathan R. Communication Circle, The (2001). Presentations>Rhetoric>Personalization


The Rhetoric Of Promoting Health   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article uses Chaim Perelman's theories of argumentation to examine a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Promoting Health: Intervention Strategies from Social and Behavioral Research (2000). The IOM's text explores social and behavioral research to devise multipronged intervention strategies; it focuses on social, economic, behavioral, and political health as a means of assuring population health--and thereby expands the conventional boundaries of public health. Since Chaim Perelman's rhetoric is seldom applied in the field of health communication, employing his ideas to consider the role of style, arrangement, and argument in such a cutting-edge document can illuminate public health writing, as well as shed new light on Perelmanian rhetoric.

Hamilton, Margaret. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2002). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Rhetoric


The Rhetoric of Typography: Effects on Reading Time, Reading Comprehension, and Perceptions of Ethos   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Asserts that typography has not occupied a significant role in discussions of visual rhetoric. Extends those discussions by investigating whether typeface persona shapes readers' interactions with a document.

Brumberger, Eva R. Technical Communication Online (2004). Design>Typography>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


The Rhetoric of Typography: The Awareness and Impact of Typeface Appropriateness   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Extends previous research on the rhetorical role of typography that has examined typeface persona and typeface suitability. Investigates whether clashes in typeface and text persona affect readers' perceptions of the text.

Brumberger, Eva R. Technical Communication Online (2003). Design>Typography>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


The Rhetoric of Typography: The Persona of Typeface and Text   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Provides strong empirical support for the notion that readers ascribe personality attributes both to typefaces and to text passages. Establishes a foundation for investigation of the interactions between typeface and text personas.

Brumberger, Eva R. Technical Communication Online (2003). Design>Typography>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Rhetoric, Community, and Cyberspace

Traditional notions of the rhetorical community as the locus of shared beliefs and values have been challenged increasingly and from several directions--from radical and post-liberal democratic political theory, from cultural studies and cultural criticism, and, most recently, from the perspective of the ill-defined and elusive 'place' called cyberspace. At the heart of these challenges is the problem of the relationship of the community to those outside it or on its margins, an uneasy relationship that is variously characterized as a tension between communitarianism and liberalism, between ourselves and Others, between a culture and its marginalized individuals, and as a complex relationship between the One and the Many. Contemporary notions of the rhetorical community characterize this community less as the locus of shared beliefs and values than as a public space or forum within which diverse and sometimes conflicting beliefs and values can be articulated and negotiated. We believe that new computer-mediated communication environments have the potential to become contemporary rhetorical communities--public spaces or forums--within which limited or local communities and individuals can develop mutual respect and understanding via dialogue and discussion. We recently tested our belief in a colloquium at Diversity University MOO, an electronic 'place' or cyberspace where individuals can 'meet' and 'chat' in real time.2 Our colloquium revealed to us a kind of rhetoric and a kind of community that seems quite unlike anything that we have seen before--seventeen 'voices' from different places all 'speaking' at once in the same 'place' and 'speaking' in fragments rather than complete discourses.

Zappen, James P., Laura J. Gurak and Stephen Doheny-Farina. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Articles>Cyberculture>Rhetoric>Online


Rhetorical Analysis of a Quick Reference Aid   (PDF)

The need for timely and relevant computer documentation is a constant challenge. Sometimes there is a need to redesign such documentation to make it more useful. Rhetorical analysis is a useful aid for technical communicators in redesigning such documentation. Using Kenneth Burke’s notion of terministic screens, a quick reference aid for the users of a machine-aided translation system is examined from the perspective of graphic communication. Although rhetorical analysis cannot replace accepted principles of good design, it allows the technical communicator to examine design decisions from another perspective, giving one a very different set of questions to consider and some principles of explanation to justify design decisions.

Brooksbank, Patricia L. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Documentation>Methods>Rhetoric


Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Our understanding of genre as social action afflicts the typical first-year college writing program in the United States. It turns what should be a practical art of achieving social ends into a productive art of making texts that fit certain formal requirements.

Miller, Carolyn R. North Carolina State University (1994). Articles>Education>Writing>Rhetoric


The Rhetorical Dimensions of Cyberspace   (peer-reviewed)

The sophisticated command of language, it has been said, is what distinguishes the human being from all other species of animals. The power to create and employ linguistic signifiers in order to communicate with relative certainty (deconstructionist theory notwithstanding) that which is signified, and the power to co-create meaning within social contexts by using these linguistic tools are hallmarks of our humanity, for better or for worse, which have been throughout the ages subjects of intense interest, study, scholarship, and debate. It is through the use of these linguistic tools that we share experience and investigate the nature of our being, pose the questions who are we, what are we, and even why are we, speculate about the answers, then test and challenge claims to truth derived from our speculating/answering process. In many ways, we are bound on all sides of our conscious being by language and thus share basic needs to see and to understand the complex nature of that which binds us. The study of that complexity is called rhetoric, and those of us who call ourselves rhetoricians, no matter our personal theoretical preferences, hold to our belief that language is empowering, that the observation and analysis of oral and written communication can make us better communicators ourselves and can serve as pedagogical tools for empowering others.

Baldwin, Beth W. and Tim Flood. RhetNet (1996). Books>Rhetoric>Cyberculture


Rhetorical Figures in Headings and Their Effect on Text Processing: The Moderating Role of Information Relevance and Text Length   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Professionals involved in the creation of text-based communication face a number of challenges. These include overburdened and often uninterested users juxtaposed with the writer’s desire to communicate relevant topical information. Uninvolved users are likely to ignore the message. This may be exacerbated by increases in text length designed to increase the amount and/or detail of information to be communicated. An experiment was conducted to examine the effect of rhetorical figures in text headings as to how users read and process the text (hereafter, readership, as used in marketing). To the extent that higher levels of text readership increase user knowledge and skills, enhance topic-related attitudes, and facilitate beneficial topic-related behaviors, higher readership should yield desirable communication outcomes. Headings with rhetorical figures were hypothesized to enhance readership, particularly under conditions generally associated with relatively low readership, namely, lower perceived information relevance and longer text. Results generally support rhetorical figures’ abilities to enhance readership, especially with longer texts.

Huhmann, Bruce A., David L. Mothersbaugh and George R. Franke. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Rhetorical Genre Studies and Beyond   (PDF)

Rhetorical Genre Studies and Beyond is addressed to researchers and teachers alike. Its purpose is both to allow its readers to refine their understanding of what it means to master genres as well as to indicate directions for the development of new genre pedagogies. The collection provides readers with an overview of the most recent developments in Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS) and emphasizes the importance of empirical research for the field. The majority of chapters address issues of genre learning and the development of professional identities by novices taking their first steps in the professions. The collection demonstrates how a combination of RGS with other related theories (e.g., Activity Theory, situated learning perspective, and so on) powerfully illuminates various aspects of genre learning. At the same time, the collection discusses other complementary theories and points to new possibilities not yet explored by researchers within the RGS tradition.

Artemeva, Natasha and Freedman, Aviva (Eds.). Inkshed Publications (2006). Books>Rhetoric>Genre


Review: Rhetorical Grammar, 5th Edition   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Throughout the book, Kolln works to build the readers' confidence and encourage them to think of grammar as a tool. Rhetorical Grammar is a textbook for undergraduate students, and Kolln keeps this target audience in mind by making the 322- page book user-friendly.

Tutt, Bryan. Business Communication Quarterly (2007). Articles>Reviews>Grammar>Rhetoric


Rhetorical Shifts in Author/Audience Roles on the World-Wide Web

Audience analysis figures prominently into Technical Communication curricula because the focus of technical communication is to take complex technical information and create materials that can help readers use, learn, repair, or build equipment or systems (Alred et al. 2). In order to help readers perform these specialized tasks, we must be intimately familiar with their real and anticipated needs, expectations, and limitations. Many different models of the author/audience relationship have been proposed to aid in this analysis. These models have worked well (depending on what school of thought one subscribed to) when the main delivery system consisted of print media.

Bartell, Sandy. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Rhetorical Theory Discussion Group

Open to teachers, students, practitioners, or the idly curious. Discussion of both pure theory and practical applications of theory are welcome. Topics include (but are not limited to): Technical communication, The Sophists, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle , Cicero, Quintilian, Augustine, Boethius, Christine de Pisan, Laura Cereta, Desiderius Erasmus, Peter Ramus, Francis Bacon, John Locke, George Campbell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mikhail Bakhtin, I. A. Richards, Ernst Cassirer, Kenneth Burke, Richard Weaver, Chaim Perelman, Stephen Toulmin, Michel Foucalt, Jacques Derrida, Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva, Kenneth A. Bruffee, Rachel Spilka, Thomas Kuhn, Carolyn Miller, Jakob Nielsen, Edward R. Tufte, Langdon Winner.

Yahoo. Resources>Mailing Lists>Theory>Rhetoric


A Rhetorical Tool and a Link to Composition: The Appeals of Narrative in Professional Writing Pedagogy   (PDF)

Narrative is a valuable genre to use in composition classes to help students understand their own identity, develop writing skills, including understanding how to structure and use personal experience with a rhetorical purpose in an essay or argument. Once they get to upper division writing courses, however, students are exposed to writing that places less emphasis on that personalized, subjective genre and moves toward the impersonal. Such writing limits the use of narrative, which is generally perceived as highly personal and subjective because it generally conveys only the narrator’s perspective. Narrative includes precise details of an event that occurred in the past which are reported in the same order in which they occurred, as well as an observation or evaluation of the information by the narrator.

Remley, Dirk. Association for Business Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Writing>Rhetoric


Rhetorical vs. Instrumental Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Survey and anecdotal evidence indicates that universities do not prepare students well for writing in the workplace. One important reason for this failure is that rhetorical theory dominates the teaching of technical communication in the academy. Though extremely influential in the academy, rhetorical theory is inappropriate for teaching some kinds of important workplace communication (instructions, online documentation, computer-human interfaces, indexes), and it does not address important skills that practicing technical communicators need. Instrumental discourse differs from rhetoric in its purpose, in its absence of reasons and argumentation, in its task-oriented approach, in its emphasis on accessibility, and in its emphasis on economics. As a result, instrumental discourse is much more appropriate for the genres and skills that practicing technical communicators use, and it offers significant advantages to students, and in the long run, to the academy itself.

Moore, Patrick. Technical Communication Online (1997). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Rhetoric


The Role of Leader Motivating Language in Employee Absenteeism   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study investigates the relationship between strategic leader language (as embodied in Motivating Language Theory) and employee absenteeism. With a structural equation model, two perspectives were measured for the impact of leader spoken language: employee attitudes toward absenteeism and actual attendance. Results suggest that leader language does in fact have a positive, significant relationship with work attendance through the mediation effect of worker attendance attitude.

Mayfield, Jacqueline and Milon Mayfield. JBC (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Rhetoric



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