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.



Some Reflections on Explanation in Negative Messages   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Scant research exists about explanation in negative messages. An important cause of this is the lack in extant literature of theory or conceptualization of explanation. This commentary provides two conceptual frameworks for thinking about explanation in negative messages: opportunity cost, from economic theory, and attribution, from marketing theory. Both frameworks help define the situations in which explanations for rejection should be provided to the targets of bad news. When applications are solicited, for instance, opportunity costs incurred by targets of bad news should be offset by senders with an offer to provide explanation. The construct of attribution is adapted here to suggest that senders of negative messages can benefit by supplying reasons for their denial of requests because, in the absence of the reasons, the rejectees will attribute motives and create reasons, thus depriving the senders of their control over the explanation portion of the messages.

Limaye, Mohan R. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Correspondence


"Something in Motion and Something to Eat Attract The Crowd": Cooking With Science at the 1893 World's Fair   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studying past examples of successful technical communication may offer insight into strategies that worked with technologies and audiences in an earlier time. This article examines the texts documenting a controversy before and during the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Ellen Swallow Richards, chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Bertha Honore Palmer, president of the Fair's Board of Lady Managers, had distinctly different visions of how cooking technology should be presented. Palmer invited Richards to create a Model Kitchen in the Woman's Building, but Richards wanted to avoid gendering the new knowledge of nutrition and she fought to control her exhibit. The multimedia Richards used in her resulting Rumford Kitchen exhibit reminds us that sometimes an entertaining but familiar atmosphere might be the best way to introduce threatening new knowledge and technology, particularly to our increasingly international and intergenerational audiences.

Lippincott, Gail. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2003). Articles>TC>History>Rhetoric


"Sort of Set My Goal to Come to Class": Evoking Expressive Content in Policy Reports   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article documents a novel yet theory-informed process of preparing research reports designed for government officials who are concerned with creating adult-literacy policy. The authors use cartoons that include verbatim dialogue from the transcripts of interviews with research participants with low functional literacy. This dialogue, which depicts positive messages about the participants’ moral character, strengths, and resilience, is set against photographic backdrops of the participants’ lived environment to give a sense of real people in a real place. Inclusion of such images is an attempt to change policy-report readers’ thinking about adult literacy because creative visual communication offers ways to approach this challenge that text alone cannot.

Sligo, Frank and Elspeth Tilley. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2009). Articles>Writing>Reports>Rhetoric


The Sound and Motion of Color

Can sound and motion illustrate the personality of color? The Animation class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design set out to discover the answer.

AIGA (2005). Design>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric>Color


Spatial and Visual Rhetorics

Both spatial and visual rhetorics attend to issues of boundaries. From the structure of our classroom spaces to the margins of the page, rhetoric and compositionist are investigating the ways spatial and visual experiences are impacting our work as teachers and scholars.

Kimme Hea, Amy C. University of Arizona (2003). Academic>Courses>Visual Rhetoric


Spatial and Visual Rhetorics

Both spatial and visual rhetorics attend to issues of boundaries. From the structure of our classroom spaces to the margins of the page, rhetoric and compositionist are investigating the ways spatial and visual experiences are impacting our work as teachers and scholars.

Kimme Hea, Amy C. University of Arizona (2005). Resources>Education>Cultural Theory>Visual Rhetoric


Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility

How can you boost your web site's credibility? We have compiled 10 guidelines for building the credibility of a web site. These guidelines are based on three years of research that included over 4,500 people.

Stanford University. Design>Web Design>Rhetoric


Review: Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Given Alan G. Gross's substantial contributions to the rhetoric of science, most recently with Joseph E. Harmon and Michael Reidy (2002) in Communicating Science, I looked forward to reading Gross's latest work, Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies--until I read the preface. In the preface, Gross notes that Starring the Text is not a new con- tribution but a 'major refiguring' (p. ix) of his earlier work The Rhetoric of Science (1990). Like most readers, I am decidedly less enthusiastic about reading a revision of an older contribution than I am about reading a new contribution.

Paul, Danette. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2008). Articles>Reviews>Rhetoric>Scientific Communication


Stepping into Oz: Managing and Delivering Successful Visual Design

How can design teams get to a successful visual design with their clients? Getting to the right visual design can be the trickiest part of a design project. One of the key reasons is that some clients have a hard time saying clearly what they want from the visual design.

Houck-Whitaker, Julia. Adaptive Path (2008). Articles>Management>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric


Steps to a Successful Interview: Presentation

Give yourself a hand. Your presentation starts with your handshake. Make it firm, business-like, and brief. Your hand should be thumb up with fingers straight. The interviewer isn’t going to kiss your hand or lead you into a waltz.

O'Keefe, Karen, Rebecca Forrest and Jean Fudge. Between the Lines (2007). Careers>Interviewing>Rhetoric


Stories and Maps: Postmodernism and Professional Communication   (peer-reviewed)

Communication used to be about telling stories, about listening to narratives of discovery, learning, redemption, and war. Not just little stories, but big stories: heaven, hell, utopia. Relatively recently, though, the map has started to replace the story as our fundamental way of knowing. The new emphasis on spatial rather than temporal or historical concerns goes by a number of titles -- postcapitalism, networked workplaces, nonhierarchical management -- but the most popular (and often misunderstood) is postmodernism. In this text, I sketch out some of the ways that postmodernist tendencies affect the careers and possibilities for business and technical communicators. Briefly, I see the potential for increased responsibility, prestige, and influence for business and technical communicators, but only if we are able to reconceive what we think of as the value of our work; that is, we must reposition ourselves as mapmakers rather than authors.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Kairos (1995). Articles>TC>Rhetoric


Stories are the Human Experience

Usability through storytelling, the theme for the UPA 2006 conference, was examined from many angles. Presenters looked at how stories fit into our work, throughout the entire user-centered design process.

Quesenbery, Whitney. uiGarden (2006). Articles>User Experience>Rhetoric


Story Telling

Story telling has been going on for millennium; it is a wonderful way to entertain and to engage others. Stories are not direct or personal, but they convey a message that can be interpreted by other world views. Various story-telling devices, such as films, novels and plays have become part of a vast entertainment industry that often reflects cultural ideals. Religions often use a book of stories, such as the bible, to convey moral beliefs. So it is perhaps not surprising that HCI has developed forms of narrative to convey stories and messages about people's lives that it wants other world views to hear.

Jones, Rachel. uiGarden (2006). Articles>Rhetoric>User Experience


Storytelling and PR: A Novel Way of Telling Your Tale

Once upon a time, a former CBS newsman devised a new strategy for telling a company's story: classic storytelling. Robbie Vorhaus founded his own public relations firm based on this principle. He shares the story of how it works in this interview with About Public Relations.

Vorhaus, Robbie. Communication World Bulletin (2004). Articles>Communication>Public Relations>Rhetoric


Storytelling Photos

Anyone can relate the facts of an event, just like anyone can hold a camera up to a scene and document it. But bare facts and badly composed images make for poor communication. It takes skill and talent to write a good story, one that will inform and entertain. The same is true for photography. Images have always been storytellers. A good image can relay large amounts of data in a format that is pleasing and quickly absorbed by the viewer. That makes photos potentially more influential than a massive amount of words.

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


Strategies for Building Web Pages--Understanding the Roles of Culture, History, and Language in Web Page Design   (PDF)

Principles of intertextuality guided an upper-level Professional Writing class at the University of Houston-Downtown when they created a World Wide Web page for a professional group in Houston. The project gave the page’s creators practical experience in approaching the text as process, accommodating readers' and writers' intermingling roles, and working with the constraints that intertextuality imposes on writers. The insights the page's creators gained can assist them as they serve as managers of their own career portfolios.

Bartholomew, Barbara G. STC Proceedings (1997). Design>Web Design>Rhetoric


The Structure of Advanced Composition   (peer-reviewed)

Every advanced composition course I taught had five elements: audience, purpose, voice, organization, and polish. 'If we teachers,' I thought, 'can visualize advanced composition as a structure with five components we should be able to teach any upper level writing course, no matter what the specific content, with confidence.' The purpose of this article is to explain the five components essential to advanced composition and to illustrate their general applicability with examples from technical writing, business writing, journalism, and academic writing.

Halpern, Jeanne W. JAC (1980). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Strunk and White Were Wrong: In Speechwriting, Personality Should Not Remain in the Background

A speech generally needs personal language because it is delivered by a live human being whose words should not sound, as Wabash College Professor William Norwood Brigance put it, "like an essay standing on its hind legs."

Tarver, Jerry. Communication World Bulletin (2005). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric>Minimalism


Studies in Reading Theory and Document Design

This course will cover how reading theory interacts with a rhetoric of graphics to influence the way that documents are designed for maximum effect on the audience.

Zachry, Mark. Utah State University (2002). Academic>Courses>Graduate>Rhetoric


A Study of Theories on Style in Technical Communication

One of the most frequent questions technical communicators encounter is what style they should write in. Unfortunately it is not an easy question. The answer to this question should come from careful theoretical studies and deliberate analysis of the audience and many other factors, such as social environment. In this paper, I wish to analyze theories, which guide the style in technical communication, from three angles: reader analysis, interpretive communities and whether technical communication is plain, instructional, or rhetorical. In the conclusion section, I will try to analyze the importance of extracting valuable parts from each theory and how the valid points from each theory work together to guide technical communicators to choose the right style in technical communication.

Sun, Lily. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Sue Smith's Rhetorical Analysis Tools

Rhetorical analysis looks at writing to see how it achieves its purpose. The point of rhetorical analysis is to see not only what writing says, but how it says it. To use a rhetorical analysis chart, choose a text to analyze and look at the questions/list of ideas.

Smith, Sue. University of Arizona. Articles>Rhetoric>Methods


Supra-Textual Design: The Visual Rhetoric of Whole Documents   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Supra-textual design encompasses the global visual language of a document and operates in three modes: textual, spatial, and graphic. The rhetoric of supra-textual design includes structural functions that provide global organization and cohesion and stylistic functions that affect credibility, tone, emphasis, interest, and usability. Supra-textual rhetoric extends to other documents through conventional codes and through sets and series. Because writers may not control the end product of supra-textual design, intention may also be a rhetorical factor.

Kostelnick, Charles. Technical Communication Quarterly (1996). Articles>Document Design>Rhetoric>Visual Rhetoric


Sustaining the Readers' Interest

Sometimes, we come across articles on technical subjects that are hard to put down. They even make us ruminate over their content, and talk about them. Though these articles are just for our information, they end up staying in our heart by chance or by design. It is not possible to get so far a reach through the technical coverage alone. The authors have presented them so nicely that we even resist any demand to stop in the middle while reading them. We find such articles mostly in news papers and magazines. As an editor, I have my own reasons for that 'Coup de grâce'! We, the technical writers, can surely pick up some of the clues from our brethren - the journalists.

Shankar, Kiruba. Indus (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Rhetoric


A Syntactic Approach To Readability   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Focusing on the issue of readability, this article examines problems that readability formulas present to the technical communicator, especially in terms of interaction with government agencies, and focuses on readability formula requirements mandated by The Office of Health and Industry programs [OHIP] for medical technology product support literature. Because the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid formulas are widely available, they are probably the ones most frequently used. Contemporary readability scholars have overlooked the Golub Syntactic Density Formula, which evaluates prose according to a sentence's syntax at a deeper level than the number of words per sentence and the number of syllables per word. The authors recommend it as a tool for evaluating readability. How it might be applied with current computer applications is discussed.

Giles, Timothy D. and Brian Still. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2005). Articles>Writing>Assessment>Rhetoric



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