Re: Rhetoric and technical writing

Subject: Re: Rhetoric and technical writing
From: Chris Snee <sneewriter -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 07:43:47 -0800


I recently earned my MA in tech comm and though I did take a course
covering traditional rhetoric (from Aristotle to Michel Foucault and
some more contemporary thinkers whose names I don't recall at the
moment), through all of my courses "rhetoric" was presented as
something more than just the use of language. The dictionary
definitions you cited fail to (explicitly) consider the medium in
which the language is presented and thus the reader's/user's
expectations, needs, etc.

When my professors and fellow students would discuss topics such as
single sourcing, we would also discuss elements of visual rhetoric as
the contents would be applied to various media such as a user guide, a
RoboHelp file, or Web-based help. Some elements were as simple as
making sure hyperlinks were displayed in blue, underlined text (or
made obvious in another, uniform manner), while other elements drew
from color theory and design theory (especially with websites) to help
emphasize, chunk, or create associations between certain pieces of

To be sure, chunking, active/passive voice, and consistent use of
terms formed the foundation for teaching rhetoric in my particular
program, but formatting and other visual rhetorical elements were
portrayed as being just as important.


On 1/16/06, Sharon Burton <sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com> wrote:
> I found this site and use it sometimes in my classes. It talks about the
> rhetorical devices in writing and I find it easy to make it relevant to
> technical writing. It's not active voice, etc. It's how to logically
> construct information to lead the reader thru what you are telling them in a
> way that supports them understanding what you are saying.

> From Stuart:
> 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.

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Rhetoric and technical writing: From: Stuart Burnfield
RE: Rhetoric and technical writing: From: Sharon Burton

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