I love this rhetoric from Georgetown University’s Martin Irvine entitled “ Writing to be Read: A rhetoric for writing in the post-digital era”. It’s written for academic writing, but I appreciate any approach that pushes the dialogic. An excerpt:
Rhetoric 101a: What It Is and Why it Holds
Rhetoric is a learned technique for making an intended effect on an audience or readers. Writers, of course, want to maximize intended effects and minimize unintended ones. The way to do this is to use shared structures and procedures for organizing ideas; this is rhetoric.
Semiotics shows us that meaning and social significance circulate beyond a writer’s/producer’s intentions, and that meaning or value is ultimately determined by an audience’s reception of a discourse as it resonates in a larger context of similar messages, genres, styles, and prior discourses.
Writers work by inhabiting this same social space and sharing expectations about language, discourse, and genres of writing. This is why learning the structure and rules of the genre are essential to making a positive impression on your readers.
Today we write with cross-media sources that need to be cited and documented. The more information sources you can document, the greater your credibility in entering the discussion or debate surrounding your topic.
Rhetoric 101b: Meeting the Expectations of Your Readers and Audience
Some of the rules for this genre of writing are part of our cultural expectations for any kind of discourse or communicative act: a coherent discourse has a beginning (intro, setting up the idea), middle (the argument itself with examples, support of claims, support of prior research, and/or close analysis of material) , and an end (a conclusion that ties up the argument and/or suggests broader implications or wider significance of the “middle”.)
So, to be a good writer of a researched or interpretive paper, or any other genre, you need to keep these rules foremost in mind:
- Write to be read, not to “express yourself” or “get your ideas out.” Use the rhetorical structure of explanatory or interpretive writing, and provide a sense of entering a shared dialogue on your topic.
- Meet your reader’s/audience’s expectations for the genre you are writing. Know the structure and rules of the genre you are writing.
- Develop your “voice” as reliable and authoritative by providing the standard signs of this reliability and authority: documentation of evidence and references to other research that allows a reader to locate your argument in a context of information (shows that you’ve done your homework and background research), clear examples for illustrating your points, logical transitions between points.