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4.4: Context

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    15245
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    While the three points of the triangle – purpose, audience, and voice – are important in determining how your voice will be heard, where your voice will be heard can be equally important. [Image: Fabien Barral  | Unsplash]

     

    Definition to Remember:

    Triangle.png

    A 21st Century Rhetorical Triangle

    Rules to Remember:

    1. While the three points of the triangle – purpose, audience, and voice – are important in determining how your voice will be heard, where your voice will be heard can be equally important. Are you writing an academic essay, an online discussion forum, an email, an evaluation, a review, a blog, a post, an article, a letter, or a text?
      Will your words appear on printed paper or on a screen? If they will be printed, will they be on paper, in a book, on a pamphlet or informational guide, in a magazine or journal, or on the pages of a newspaper? If they will appear on a screen, are they more likely to appear on someone’s desktop computer, laptop computer, iPad, TV, smart phone, smart watch, a large smart screen, or another device? How does the context affect how and what you will say?
    2. Consider the visuals. How does the context affect the visuals that will either accompany or be incorporated in your work? Are short paragraphs and bulleted ideas preferable, or are longer paragraphs acceptable? Will there be pictures or graphics to augment your ideas, or do you need to spend more time offering specific images and details? Would break-out boxes make your ideas more readable, and how might that affect the flow of your ideas?
      As you consider the following options, weigh carefully whether their inclusion would benefit or detract from the influence of your words:
      • colored fonts
      • varied point sizes
      • strategic white space
      • bulleted lists
      • pictures
      • graphs
      • charts
      • break-out boxes
      • live links
      • music
      • videos
      • slides
      • sound bites
      • interactive maps
      • questionnaires or surveys
      • pop-up images
      • mind-maps

      When you include visuals, the information should not repeat what is already in your text. Always be mindful of how the two come together to create a more complex and persuasive whole.

    3. Consider your tone. The more masterful we are at using technology to communicate, the more adept we are becoming at code shifting. Even as we learn to subconsciously shift the tone of our writing, it will always behoove us to be intentional in order to ensure that we are as clear and persuasive as possible.

      For example, as you type an academic essay on your laptop while monitoring work emails on a desktop and occasionally checking social media on a smart phone, you shift your linguistic code with each new device and context. While you may not always need to remind yourself to monitor your tone as you move from a formal email to your boss to an emoji-based text to your spouse, you need to be careful not to slip between the two.Many of the components of voice apply here as well. How do each of these affect the impact you are hoping to have on your readers?

      • word choice
      • sentence length
      • paragraph length
      • point of view
      • punctuation choices
      • emotional appeals
      • appeals to logic
      • storytelling
      • humor
      • direct vs. indirect address
      • opposing arguments
      • conflict
      • authority
      • diction, syntax, and tone“Working with social media requires having an excellent ability to be quick and to the point while adhering to AP standards and maintaining a professional tone.” Jonathan Esterman, Billing & Collections Specialist

    Common Errors:

    • Assuming that writing is just writing without pondering the effects of varying contexts. While the written medium has always had an impact on the message, today’s constantly shifting contexts have an even greater effect. The more aware we are of the contexts we are sliding between, the more impactful our words will be.
    • Neglecting to consider the impact of visuals and live information on our writing. While these additions do not always replace our words, they can alter the approach that we take. Keep a wide-angle view of your project: What is best heard? What is best seen? How can you communicate in ways that are memorable, intentional, and mindful of how and where your readers will receive your message?
    • Remaining inflexible in an era that demands flexibility. While the simple math of effective writing remains stable, the means with which we share our writing with one another is continually changing. The more flexible we are in our efforts to reach others, the more likely we are to be heard.

    Exercises:

    Exercise 17.1

    Consider five writing tasks that you have completed recently, whether for school, work, or home. What was the purpose of each? Who was your audience for each? What was the context for each? Consider a new context for each of the tasks you list below: If it was an essay, what if it had been a long email? If it was a report for work, what if it had been a social media blog? Consider the impact each shift in context would have on your final product.

    1.

    2.

    3.

    4.

    5.

    Exercise 17.2

    Select one of the writing tasks from Exercise 17.1 above, and consider how you might incorporate the following additions. Would the item list add or detract from your argument? Why? How would you define each item in terms that would apply specifically to your topic?

    1. Colored fonts and varied point sizes
    2. Pictures
    3. Graphs or Charts
    4. Charts
    5. Break-out boxes
    6. Live links
    7. Music
    8. Videos
    9. Interactive maps
    10. Questionnaires or surveys

    Exercise 17.3

    Consider a writing assignment you intend to write in the near future, whether for work, school, or personal use. What is you purpose, and who is your audience? What context will you use and why? What impact will that context have on your final product? If you could choose a different context, what would you choose? Why?

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