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.



Communicating Clearly: It Often Pays to Repeat Information

A common observation of clients who're reading first drafts of the work they've ordered is that, 'You said that once already, so we can take this sentence out.' In fact, a certain amount of redundancy helps to get the point across.

Bennaco (2005). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Communicating What You Do That's Special   (PDF)

Designed for technical communicators with one to five years of working experience, this workshop enables participants to successfully demonstrate the value of their work by drawing on personal experiences to describe their capabilities and approaches. Specifically participants will effectively muster facts, figures, and metaphors to convince an employer (supervisor, colleague, project director, or whomever) that he or she can: come into a project “cold”; complete a front-end analysis of needs; develop an appropriate approach; and perform to specified standards, regardless of subject matter. Further, this workshop aims to build self-esteem by highlighting the added value that a technical communicator brings to a project by representing a special perspective.

Huff, Claudia H. STC Proceedings (1994). Careers>TC>Rhetoric


Communication Currents

Communication Currents is an online web magazine designed to translate current communication scholarship published in scholarly journals of the National Communication Association.

Communication Currents. Journals>Rhetoric>Communication


Competing Conceptions of Risk

Risk issues are unarguably contentious. People evaluate risks in incompatible ways and propose conflicting proposals for mitigating or litigating risk issues. The sources of contention are multiple. Sometimes people differ because they have different information; sometimes they differ because they have incompatible interests. This paper addresses one of the more philosophical and systemic bases for differing opinions and approaches: The possibility that people have fundamentally or substantially different conceptions of risk. The philosophical basis for contention over risk is most evident in the scholarly and scientific literature. Experts who study risk or risk issues are more likely to develop well-defined, internally consistent conceptions of risk than members of the lay public. If distinct philosophical and linguistic presumptions underlie competing conceptions of risk, it should be possible to formulate the contentiousness over alternatives in terms of a principled philosophical debate, with implications for risk analysis, risk evaluation and risk communication.

Thompson, Paul B. and Wesley Dean. Franklin Pierce Law Center (1996). Articles>Risk Communication>Rhetoric


Competitive Analysis: Understanding the Market Context

Effective web design, from the simplest brochure website to the most complex web application, needs to involve an understanding of context. While user-centered design focuses on user needs/tasks, and information architecture focuses on content, these two aspects alone offer an incomplete picture. What is missing is the context: the environment in which the website or web application is used as well as the market in which it exists.

Withrow, Jason. Boxes and Arrows (2006). Articles>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Rhetoric


Composition and Rhetoric Bibliographic Database

Welcome to the home page of the Composition & Rhetoric Bibliographic Database project. Citations from journals and books in composition and rhetoric studies have been archived in both EndNote and Refer/BibIX bibliographic formats.

Honeycutt, Lee. Iowa State University (2001). Resources>Bibliographies>Rhetoric


Compositionality, Rhetoricity, and Electricity: A Partial History of Some Composition and Rhetoric Studies

Since 1949, when the Conference on College Composition and Communication was founded in Chicago, the terms composition and rhetoric have been linked in a social-constructionist move that is now ubiquitous in many United Statesian English departments as well as in many free-standing composition-rhetoric programs.

Welch, Kathleen E. Enculturation (2003). Articles>Education>Writing>Rhetoric



An ongoing online index of twentieth-century publications in post-secondary composition, rhetoric, ESL, and technical writing.

Haswell, Rich. CompPile. Resources>Bibliographies>Rhetoric>Technical Writing


Confronting Doublespeak   (PDF)

The Doublethink and Newspeak of Orwell's 1984 have counterparts in the Doublespeak that can be identified in many contemporary public documents. As technical editors, we may be confronted with documents that use Doublespeak to misdirect or deceive the reader. What is our role in dealing with such documents?

Bowermaster, Philip. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Language>Rhetoric


Confusion in the Classroom: Does Logos Mean Logic?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The redefinition of logos as an appeal to logic is a mistaken association found all too often in the technical communication classroom. Logic inheres in all three proofs of persuasion; moreover, Aristotle used <em>logos</em> within the context of classical rhetoric to refer to the argument or speech itself. In this light, the proofs of persuasion represent the set of all logical means whereby the speaker can lead a "right-thinking" audience to infer <em>something</em>. If that <em>something</em> is an emotion, the appeal is to <em>pathos</em>; if it is about the character of the speaker, the appeal is to <em>ethos</em>; and if it is about the argument or speech itself, the appeal is to <em>logos</em>. This interpretation reinstates all three proofs of persuasion as legitimate, logical means to different proximate ends and provides a coherent definition of <em>logos</em>, consonant with Aristotle's <em>Rhetoric</em>, to the next generation of technical communicators.

Little, Joseph. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>TC>Education>Rhetoric


Consistency Leads to Trust in Information Sources

When we start talking consistency, we often think of our documents’ formatting. Consistency is important from the serial comma all the way up to the arrangement of information.

Minson, Benjamin. Gryphon Mountain (2009). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Content vs. Product: The Effects of Single Sourcing on the Teaching of Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Identifies and discusses the effects of single sourcing on the writing process. Provides suggestions for incorporating the teaching of single sourcing into technical communication courses

Eble, Michelle F. Technical Communication Online (2003). Articles>Content Management>Single Sourcing>Rhetoric


Contextual Narrative: Rethinking Communication In Our Professions

The rich contextual narrative contained in a story makes it a far more effective way of learning than by reading any procedure, best practice, or most other knowledge transfer media. What makes stories so compelling? While we have been taught that people process information, they actually learn by processing patterns. The patterns held in stories hold far more contextual meaning than we intentionally convey, and stay longer with those being told the stories. Will we ever wean customers from calling the help desk? Should we start our manuals with "once upon a time ...?" Is the answer to usability to create a giant template for all Web applications? Which patterns work, and why don't my patterns ever seem to be ones that stick?

Bailie, Rahel Anne. SlideShare (2007). Presentations>Communication>Rhetoric


Control the Pace

Control the pace of the story by varying sentence length.

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


Copywriting or Design: Which Gets the Best Results?

Designers believe that if something isn’t working well, and it comes down to changing the copy or the design, it’s always the copy that should be changed, reduced or sometimes nearly completely eliminated. How can I convince my designer co-workers that succinct, simple and memorable words can be just as important as the visuals?

Chartrand, James. Men With Pens (2009). Articles>Graphic Design>Writing>Visual Rhetoric


Corporate Image and the Establishment of Euro Disney: Mickey Mouse and the French Press   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Drawing upon publications in the French press, this article considers three interweaving themes that characterized the construction of the Euro Disney park. It then offers an analysis of the historical context for and the implications of the park's construction, using the literature of French cultural studies and cross-cultural studies for support. It concludes with a discussion of the possible consequences to the company of Disney's negative image in the French press.

Forman, Janis. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Articles>Rhetoric>Branding


Corporatespeak: Deconstructing the New Language of Business

Business has a language all its own that changes almost daily. It is a language that is limiting, that denies possibility, and that excludes creative thinking. It is also the language with which industry players must grapple in their struggle to make money from new technology.

Leiper, Jeff. Writer's Block (2002). Articles>Business Communication>Rhetoric


Could You Mind Your Language? An Investigation of Communicators' Ability to Inhibit Linguistic Bias   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Three experiments that examine communicators' ability to inhibit linguistic bias are reported. Research has shown that communicators use more abstract language (e.g., "Jamie is affectionate" vs. "Jamie kisses Rose") to describe more expected behavior. Recent research has shown that this bias may be overwhelmed by goals to put a "spin" on actions or to manipulate audiences' impressions of actors. Similarly, the present experiments show that people who wish to communicate without bias may often be able to do so. Inhibition occurred when participants selected descriptions from a list of alternatives and when they freely described both expected and unexpected behaviors. However, inhibition failed when participants were asked to freely describe either expected or unexpected behaviors alone.

Douglas, Karen M., Robbie M. Sutton and Katie Wilkin. Journal of Language and Social Psychology (2008). Articles>Language>Professionalism>Rhetoric


Creating a Writer's Identity on the Boundaries of Two Communities of Practice

In this case study, we explore the way one student, who aspired to become a professional writer, learned through her writing activity in two communities: academia and public relations. We use activity theory to conceptualize the student's learning as an activity that balances between individual agency in meaning making and the social, historical and cultural forces that shape how individuals make meaning. Perceiving the two settings as communities of practice that provided opportunities for pursuing shared enterprises and engaging in collective learning, we show how the student's simultaneous participation in these contrasting communities challenged and refined her understanding of what it means to be an effective writer . We discuss how the work she engaged in on the boundaries of two writing communities enhanced her developing identity as a professional writer as she became aware of and tested the limitations of writing in these two communities. Our study shows the benefit of providing opportunities for teachers and students to explore how contrasting communities of practice define successful writing activity and how writing activity operates in the cultural and political sphere of each community.

Ketter, Jean and Judy Hunter. WAC Clearinghouse (2002). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Creating Effective Poster Presentations: An Effective Poster

An effective poster is not just a standard research paper stuck to a board. A poster uses a different, visual grammar. It shows, not tells.

Hess, George, Kathryn Tosney and Leon Liegel. North Carolina State University (2006). Design>Presentations>Posters>Visual Rhetoric


Creating Procedural Discourse and Knowledge for Software Users: Beyond Translation and Transmission   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Although most theorists agree that discourse creates meaning, they have not adequately described how this process emerges within the creation of procedural knowledge. This article explores how technical communicators in diverse settings based discourse decisions on their knowledge of (a) users, (b) organizational image and constraints, (c) software structure and features, and (d) genre conventions in order to create communication artifacts designed to help users develop procedural knowledge. The transformations in which they engaged indicated that these technical communicators were skilled in forming images in these four areas and then using these images as they created meaning in procedural discourse. In this process, they moved beyond merely translating or transmitting technical knowledge.

Rush Hovde, Marjorie. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2010). Articles>Documentation>Rhetoric>Theory


Creating the Vision: Developing Graphic Strategies   (PDF)

Making documentation more visual is a two phase process. First comes the brainstorming, where ideas bubble up: the weird the funny, the wonderful, the breakthrough, the lame brain — no idea discriminated against, all equally enjoying the bright, spring air of the creative process. Once You begin to brainstorm you may find putting concepts into graphics is easier than you thought. Then comes the second phase: the hard realization that even if you throw out all the crazy ideas, you still have to pick and choose. You have to develop a strategy for graphic use, one that goes beyond the basic visual unity a good graphic designer can give a document. You have to see the graphics in light of the user's need.

Malone, Jacquelyn. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Documentation>Visual Rhetoric


The Creation of Metaphor: A Case for Figurative Language in Technical Writing Classes   (peer-reviewed)

It may perhaps seem strange to speak of metaphor in the same breath as instruction in technical writing. But based on Professor Mary Rosner's observations about changes in technical writing, as they are reflected historically in textbooks since the 1920s, and on my own perceptions of directions in technical writing today, I could justifiably assert that we have nearly come full circle.1 In the beginning was the word. When technical writing first began to be separated from other advanced writing courses, it retained many of the strategies and approaches of Advanced Exposition courses—the study of rhetoric, logical organization, conventions, formats. Early texts show this connection. Later, as technical writing teachers began to pursue their own directions in research, their teaching approaches and the textbooks they created began to reflect new discoveries and directions: psycholinguistics crept in; more materials on audience analysis began to show up in texts; management psycholoy of Abraham Maslow and others appeared; conventional report formats were reflected; readability formulas became a staple of textbooks. But for a while, rhetorical approaches still held sway. Today, of course, only a few commentators will argue for some return to the older liberal arts traditions, myself among them. But these few are a vocal lot.

Catron, Douglas M. JAC (1983). Articles>Education>Rhetoric>Tropes


A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Visual Literacy Challenges for Technical Communicators   (PDF)

Many emerging nations have pre-technological cultures. These nations are striving to develop a new technological literacy that is heavily dependent on visual literacy, or the ability to 'read' images. This paper discusses some challenges for technical communicators in presenting technical graphics to users who are not fully functional in learned Western conventions and skills of pictorial representation, pictorial literacy, and pictorial perception aspects such as conceptualization, perspective and depth, scale, and analysis of component details.

Ausburn, Floyd B. and Lynna J. Ausburn. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Communication>Visual Rhetoric


Crossing the Boulevard: The Action of "Genre as Social Action"

My first encounter with Carolyn Miller’s article Genre as Social Action had such a powerful impact on me that I remember exactly where I was when I discovered it and exactly my first thoughts.

Devitt, Amy J. Composition Forum (2015). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre



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