In assignments P1.1 and P1.2 we looked at audience, genre, and purpose as rhetorical concepts that are important in any piece of writing. In this assignment we will explore the connections between these writing concepts and we will practice analyzing how they show up in various texts.
Writers – like you, in college and elsewhere – encounter lots of audiences (friends, instructors, employers, parents, peers, and more) with lots of different expectations. With audience needs and expectations in mind, good writers are flexible they must be able to analyze and make decisions about how they will approach the writing that fits the situation every time they write. A writer should understand the needs of the audience, how those needs relate to or shape the purpose for the writing, and which writing genre will be appropriate for communicating to those audiences.
Let’s consider genre in writing.
What is Genre?
If you’re on Apple Music or another streaming music provider, you’ll find that songs and files are sorted by album, artist, and playlist. You also have the option to organize or choose music based on genre: which might be rock, hip-hop, house, R&B, alternative, and so on. Music and other forms of artistic expression art, film, and writing among others are categorized into different genres. Because this is a writing course, we use a variety of texts, print, visual and digital, that represent a variety of genres of writing.
This link (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/professional_technical_writing/business_writing_for_administrative_and_clerical_staff/genre_and_medium.html) to information from the Purdue OWL explains some genres of writing we commonly experience.
Put simply, genre conventions are the rules or expectations of a genre. All writing fits (to some degree) the conventions or expectations of the genre in which it is situated — the conventions are generalized, agreedupon principles that shape a piece of writing, that a writer must understand and decide upon for the rhetorical situation. It’s important to understand that writers approaching a writing situation decide on which genre to write in and then consider whether or not to adhere to the genre conventions that come with it. As an everyday example of this writerly decision-making, let’s consider writing a text message to a friend.
When texting someone you know, like a friend, you might not spell words out fully because the conventions of a text message include abbreviations. Did u c? instead of Did you see? meets the conventions of the text message genre. As the writer of the text, you make that decision to abbreviate because you understand those conventions (agreed-upon expectations) of the written genre (text message). However, as the writer of a college application letter, or an email to a professor, or a research essay for a class, you might make other choices because you understand the conventions of a text message would be inappropriate in one of those writing situations. You might decide to avoid abbreviations and to ensure correct spelling because you know the conventions of these genres include formal tone, correct spelling and grammar, and word choice that is appropriate to audience. And punctuation while considered perhaps aggressive in a text message is an expectation of more formal writing that you’d find in the genre of a college application letter, for example. It all depends on the writing situation.
Why Genre Matters
Genres are more than just different types of writing. At the heart of genre is the communication of ideas from one individual or group to another. Text messages between friends or a college application essay written to a wider audience of Deans and Admissions officials. There are genres of literature, such as poetry, drama, fiction, etc.; popular movie genres like horror, comedy, rom-com, and others; and genres of writing that include the everyday uses of communication: editorials, lab reports, proposals, eulogies, menus, e-mails, text messages, etc. Sometimes a genre defies easy categorization – a rom-com is a romance and comedy, an email can be used for formal workplace writing or simple information exchange with a family member.
Genres are a product of society they emerge from a need or desire to communicate something to someone. A meme is a good example of a genre that emerged based on context (social media) and audience and exigence (a need) for a quick visual statement. Genres are tools that writers and speakers create to communicate in the recurring social situations in which they find themselves. Put another way, genres are used to communicate a certain message, at a certain time, in a certain place, to a certain individual or group. For example, when someone dies, there is a funeral. Funerals are a recurring social situation for honoring the deceased, to say something about them. At funerals, we communicate to loved ones about the deceased person through the eulogy genre and the obituary genre. Graduation is another example of a recurring social situation. At graduation, the commencement address is the genre used to communicate.
What about Audience?
Audiences have a certain set of expectations. They expect genres to fulfill those expectations regarding purpose and context. The college admissions committee is an audience that expects the admissions essay (genre) to fulfill a need — to help them understand (purpose) if an applicant will do well at the institution (context).
For another example, lets consider the genre of a lab report you might see in a science class. A lab report, as you might expect, is supposed to be factual, keep its explanation to brief phrases or sentences, and report on an experiment or observation. It might contain graphs or numerical values or formulas. You would expect to see this in chemistry class or biology class, but not in a writing class. In each rhetorical situation (biology class, chemistry class, or writing class), the audience has an expectation that the lab report generally fulfills – genre conventions. And who is the audience for the lab report? Depends on context a TA or professor or classmates in academic settings, but in professional settings? Consider how this genre (and every genre) might be connected to purpose, audience and context.
What Does Genre Have to do with My Writing?
Youre already a flexible writer because you make decisions every day about how, when, and why to participate in genres. These genres may be personal (texting, social media writing, digital storytelling, keeping personal journals), they may be print-based or digital, they may be academic (essays, lab reports, research case studies, etc.) or for work (report or email, customer response, manager application, service log, sales plan, etc.).
Thinking about how you already use different genres of writing, and the purposes for which you use particular genres is helpful in understanding how and why we communicate with different audiences. Understanding which genre is appropriate to a particular situation gives you, as a writer or effective user of language, the ability to take part in that situation. The more you understand it the more effective you will be in writing for that situation. And the more you understand a rhetorical situation, the better youll be at assessing each new situation, and transferring what you know about writing to each new situation you encounter. Soon, youll be effective at any genre you choose to write, for any writing situation, because you will know how to approach it based on your prior knowledge about genres. Therefore, what you know about genres is critical to making you the most effective writer you can be.
Practice the analysis you’ll do for Project 1 by analyzing two or three of the concepts as demonstrated in any three of the readings from our class so far (Assignments P1.1 and P1.2). You might:
Find an excerpt from the readings that exemplifies the importance of understanding the concepts and how they are connected. For example, which genres are not the same but share a common connection you can identify through audience — in other words are there two different genres that attempt to connect to audiences in a similar way? And conversely, are there two similar genres that aim for different (or some differences) in their audiences? Can you find an example where the writer’s purpose is clear and consider the genre used, surrounding context, and audience for the writing? What can you surmise about the audience, purpose, context, and genre in our readings?
Write a brief analysis about how you see the concepts in our readings. You don’t have to discuss all concepts or use all readings in this assignment – consider this a practice analysis for Project One.