Rhetoric and technical writing

Subject: Rhetoric and technical writing
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 22:15:29 +0800

It's not always clear to me when you're being serious and when you're taking the sense of humour out for a spin, Tony, but assuming this was a serious question: no, I'm pretty certain you're not on the money. I don't believe adding an irrelevant, emotive, all-caps adverb and some exclamation marks to an instruction has anything to do with the art of rhetoric as it applies to tech writing.

But this did get me to wondering what rhetoric _does_ mean when applied to tech writing. My dictionary has as its primary definition: "the study of the techniques of using language effectively." There are other definitions, including "the use of language to inform and persuade" and "excessive ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written discourse; bombast" (which I guess is the meaning Tony was alluding to) but I assume the first definition describes how rhetoric is usually applied in TW courses.

Can anyone tell me in a little more detail how rhetoric is taught in college TW courses? Do they tend to have standalone units on rhetoric, or are rhetorical techniques folded into the specialised TW units?

What are the main rhetorical techniques? Or are they pretty much the usual writing issues that come up often on the list--chunking, active versus passive voice, first person versus second person, vocabulary, consistency, and so on.



ps. Tony--does The Art of Computer Programming send shivers down your spine? ;-)

Tony Markos wrote:
> A ways back I asked listserv members what writing skills are.
> The number two response was skill in the art of rhetoric.
> Frankly, as someone with an engineering background,
> anything partly defined as "the art of..." sends shivers down
> my spine. But hey, I'll try anythng. So I have decided to try
> and make my docs have a more interesting tone - to be more
> rhetorical. Below are samples of my old and new
> (rhetorical-based) styles. Am I "on the money" or what?

Example Without Rhetoric

Step 1.) Press the enter key.

Example With Rhetoric

Step 1.) PASSIONATELY press the enter key!!!

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