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.



The Role of Social Construction in Technical Communication

Technical communicators perform an important role in society, relaying complex messages in a clear and concise manner to people who would otherwise have to spend an inordinate amount of time tracking down this information for themselves. Among other things, technical communicators are responsible for writing software manuals and computer help systems, instruction manuals for everything from appliances to airplanes, and health-related pamphlets and warnings. If this information is misunderstood – either through the shortcomings of the writer or reader – the consequences can be devastating.

Robinson, Alyssa. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Say It in Pictures: Crash Course in Visual Literacy   (PDF)

Today, communication requires more than just pages of printed words. Producing effective documents and training requires the ability to understand, think and communicate graphically. This demonstration shows how to communicate almost anything graphically. Through creative brainstorming you will start to think visually and learn valuable principles that you can use back on the job to refine your own graphics.

Horton, William K. III and Katherine W. Horton. STC Proceedings (1996). Design>Graphic Design>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


A Scheme for Representing Written Argument   (peer-reviewed)

A scheme for representing argument is a formalism used to describe the structure or pattern within argumentative discourse. The value of any such scheme lies in its ability to focus attention on certain aspects of perceptually complex argument and direct interpretation and use of these aspects in detail. Formal logic, beginning with the syllogism, represents a large class of argument schemes. So too do the schemes of classical rhetoric.

Kaufer, David S. and Cheryl Geisler. JAC (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Seeing and Using Theories for Design   (PDF)

In recent years, the subject of research has attracted much attention within the field of design. In this discussion, suggestion has been made about the importance of descriptive/explanatory theory for the practice of design. Given that design is prescriptive by nature, between description and prescription, there is a gap. The gap suggests that the function and value of theory in design practice and thus its evaluation require further examination, clarification and demonstration. The practical value of theory in scientific inquiry is unquestionable. Theory is often referred as the foundation of sciences. Since the immediate goal of scientific practice is different from that of design practice, can the same be said about theory for design? Taking a perspective of a designer, my starting point is that theory, like any information, needs to be brought to life by our way of seeing and using it. Through reflecting on how I have evaluated and used developmental theories for a conceptual design of HIV prevention communication. I will bring up the issue of user in theory evaluation, attempt to demonstrate theory is (made) useful (by)/to designing and put into perspective the value of descriptive/explanatory theory to designing.

Chow, Rosan. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Document Design>Theory>Visual Rhetoric


Seeing Before Reading: Messages Encoded in the Design of Information

Overall, the design of information provides cues about the meaning of the information. These cues, like punctuation, are often unconsciously interpreted by readers, but they do significantly influence the message.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Document Design>Information Design>Visual Rhetoric


Seeing Cells: Teaching the Visual/Verbal Rhetoric of Biology   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This pilot study obtained baseline information on verbal and visual rhetorics to teach microscopy techniques to college biology majors. We presented cell images to students in cell biology and biology writing classes and then asked them to identify textual, verbal, and visual cues that support microscopy learning. Survey responses suggest that these students recognized some of the rhetorical strategies used and conflated others, revealing intriguing questions for further research in undergraduate microscopy education.

Dinolfo, John, Barbara Heifferon and Lesly A. Temesvari. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Visual Rhetoric


Seeing is Believing and Content Counts

Even if you are a confident, seasoned speaker, you still need to connect with your audience with terrific content and visual aids. Knock `em dead with your words and the visual aids you use in order to truly have audiences on the edge of their seats! How can you get a crowd of hungry or tired conference attendees interested in your presentation? How can you stand apart and be remembered out of a series of speakers? Be daring and different. Seek untraditional methods to relate your information. Investigate all your options and all resources. Never rule anything out.

Brody, Marjorie. Presenters University (2002). Articles>Presentations>Visual Rhetoric>Microsoft PowerPoint


Seeing, Writing and Rhetoric

The primary aim of Writing 205/Writing Studio 2 is to help you become more adept at meeting the writing demands of the university. In your earlier work in writing courses, you may have focused on reflection or understanding what you have come to know through experience and observation.

Murray, Joddy. Morrismurray.net (2001). Academic>Courses>Writing>Rhetoric


Seek Original Images

Seek original images. Make word lists, free-associate, be surprised by language. Reject cliches and 'first-level creativity.'

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


Self-Generated Versus Other-Generated Statements and Impressions in Computer-Mediated Communication: A Test of Warranting Theory Using Facebook   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The warranting principle pertains to impression formation in Internet communication. It posits that perceivers' judgments about a target rely more heavily on information which the targets themselves cannot manipulate than on self-descriptions. Two experiments employed mock-up profiles resembling the Internet site, Facebook, to display self-generated clues and to display other-generated clues about a Facebook user. The first experiment (N = 115) tested perceptions of extraversion. Although warranting was supported, rival explanations (negativity and additivity) also pertained. The second experiment (N = 125) tested perceptions of physical attractiveness. Friends' comments overrode self-comments, supporting warranting theory exclusively. Implications concern boundary-setting research for warranting, and potential effects of social comments on a variety of new information forms.

Walther, Joseph B., Brandon Van Der Heide, Lauren M. Hamel and Hillary C. Shulman. Communication Research (2009). Articles>Rhetoric>Online>Social Networking


Sensitivity in Writing

The biggest impact of globalization is our vast exposure to diversity. Compared to earlier generations, we regularly come across a variety of different people. As professional communicators, it is extremely important for us to recognize this diversity and represent it sensitively in content that we develop.

Dalvi, Meghashri. Indus (2007). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Seven Steps to Writing White Papers More Efficiently

Read about a seven-step process used when writing write white papers and other complex documents.

Gandia, Ed. WhitePaperSource (2006). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>White Papers


Seven Things You Should Know About Data Visualization   (PDF)

Data visualization is the graphical representation of information. Information technology combines the principles of visualization with powerful applications and large data sets to create sophisticated images and animations. Representing large amounts of disparate information in a visual form often allows you to see patterns that would otherwise be buried in vast, unconnected data sets. Data visualizations offer one way to harness infrastructure to find hidden trends and correlations that can lead to important discoveries. Visual literacy is an increasingly important skill, and data visualizations are another channel for students to develop their ability to process information visually.

Educause (2007). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Visual Rhetoric


Seven Ways to Motivate the Audience

This handout provides examples of seven strategies commonly used to engage an audience's attention at the beginning of an oral presentation.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric>User Experience


Shakespearean Technical Writing   (PDF)

Shows how technical writers can make better use of literary devices such as metaphor and foreshadowing to produce better, and more enjoyable, documentation.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. Intercom (2001). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>Tropes


Shaping Local HIV/AIDS Services Policy through Activist Research: The Problem of Client Involvement   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article argues that professional writing researchers can help shape public policy by understanding policy making as a function of institutionalized rhetorical processes and by using an activist research stance to help generate the knowledge necessary to intervene. My goal is to argue for what activist technical writing research might look like, lay out an understanding of institutions that is helpful for influencing public policy, and illustrate the promises and the problems of both positions by using the case of a study focused on local HIV/AIDS policy making. According to this way of thinking, professional writing researchers can impact policy by helping change the processes by which policy gets made.

Grabill, Jeffrey T. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>Biomedical


Should a Speaker Apologize to the Audience?

Conventional public speaking wisdom states that one should never apologize. However, I recently argued that there are very few public speaking rules. Is “never apologize” a strict rule?

Dlugan, Andrew. Six Minutes (2008). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Situational Editing: A Rhetorical Approach for the Technical Editor   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Argues that the rhetorical approach to communication considers situations individually and is necessary for technical editors because their work comprises a series of individual rhetorical decisions. Proposes a rhetorical theory of technical editing.

Beuhler, Mary Fran. Technical Communication Online (2003). Articles>Editing>Technical Editing>Rhetoric


Sixteen Usable CSS Graph and Bar Chart Tutorials and Techniques

Have you ever even tried to create your own CSS graph? If you have, you will know how hard it is. Using Flash is one way to go, but you just can’t beat a beautifully crafted CSS Graph. Have a look at these tutorials and techniques.

SpeckyBoy (2009). Design>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric>Charts and Graphs


So Much, So Far, So What? Progress and Prediction in Technorhetoric   (peer-reviewed)

In any popular cultural innovation one cares to name, there is an explicit or implicit claim about the way that the innovation will 'change' or 'transform' life, its quality, or its effect.

Whipple, Bob, Jr. and Robert S. Dornsife, Jr. Kairos (2004). Articles>Rhetoric>Technology


Social and Cognitive Effects of Professional Communication on Software Usability   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

We designed and piloted a technical communication course for software engineering majors to take concurrently with their capstone project course in software design. In the pilot, one third of the capstone design course students jointly enrolled in the writing class. One goal of the collaborative courses was to use writing to improve the usability of students' software. We studied the effects of writing on students' user-centered beliefs and design practices and on the usability of their product, using surveys, document analyses, expert reviews, and user test results. When possible, we compared the usability processes and products of teams who did and did not take the writing class. Our findings suggest that the synergy of this interdisciplinary approach effectively sensitized students to user-centered design, instilled in them a commitment to it, and helped them develop usable products.

Mirel, Barbara E. and Leslie A. Olsen. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Design>Software>Usability>Rhetoric


The Social Life of Visualization: Part 1

In 2009 we are in the midst of an interesting era for data visualization, particularly as it becomes coupled with the social web. Increasing processing speed, bandwidth and storage capacity are making it relatively simple to render and access visual representations of data. Developers have released libraries of code so we can easily create our own visualizations; and access to all kinds of data is becoming incredibly standardized, particularly through the use of APIs. So as visualization becomes much more straightforward to integrate into online environments, it makes sense to rethink how it can best be used in this setting.

Yuille, Jeremy and Hugh Macdonald. Johnny Holland (2009). Articles>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric>Charts and Graphs


Social Network Analysis

How do knowledge workers learn? How do they decide what to learn next? What motivates them to share? These questions are central to the challenges of knowledge management, and yet most corporate portals and online communities are designed in ignorance of their answers.

Morville, Peter. Semantic Studios (2002). Design>Web Design>Collaboration>Rhetoric


The Society for Text and Discourse

The Society for Text and Discourse is an international society of researchers who investigate all aspects of discourse processing and text analysis. The purpose of the Society is to consolidate research in discourse processing and to enhance communication among researchers in different disciplines.

University of Memphis. Organizations>Rhetoric>International


Some Graphic and Semigraphic Displays

Graphs and semigraphic displays are made for purposes. Different purposes usually call for different graphs.

Tukey, John W. Edward Tufte (1972). Design>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric>Charts and Graphs



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