The Dynamic Duo of Rhetorical Awareness and User-Centered Design

berlin-rhetoric1“Research shows that, in order to adapt their writing for different purposes, students need to develop the ability to analyze audience expectations and to analyze how genres function rhetorically.” (Suzanne Lane) What do you mean I have to “analyze my audience’s expectations?” I know what they expect… they expect to read what I’ve written. This was my initial reaction to the idea of rhetorical awareness in my writing. If any of you are at all similar to me you have probably experienced the same feelings of frustration I did when first confronted with this issue. Sometimes, as student or young professionals entering the working world, we millennials can overlook the subtleties involved with written communication.

Susanne Sweat says, “Rhetorical awareness is understanding that successfully fulfilling the purpose of your writing is dependent on your ability to anticipate and address the needs of your audience.” While this definition may sound very similar to user-centered design, rhetorical awareness is more geared towards the the purpose and context surrounding the need to write than tailoring your writing to the needs and desires of the reader. I completely understand if you are sitting there saying these ARE the same things and wondering what the heck I am talking about. It’s perfectly okay if that is the case! I was there too and the more confused I got the more frustrated I got. But don’t stress! We can overcome this obstacle and prevent future frustration with the help of a couple, simple guidelines.

Every time you sit down to write, whether that be at you new job or for a class in school, consider the rhetorical situation before you begin writing. What is the rhetorical situation? That’s a good question, one that I asked myself not too long ago. The rhetorical situation is made up of three factors, the purpose of the document you are writing, who is the audience that will read the document, and what is the context the document is needed in.

1.) Purpose

What is the purpose of the document you are about to write? What is the Goal of this specific communication, why is is being written?

2.) Audience

Who will read this document? Who will use this document in their work and refer back to it? Who will your intended readers share this document with that you may not have intended to read it?

3.) Context

Why is this document needed in the first place? What is the background of the situation that transpired leading up to the formation of this document or communication?

By considering these three elements before you even begin to write and understanding “how different types of messages construct different types of knowledge” (rhetorical goals) you will be able to more effectively communicate the purpose of your document to the reader. But, just like many other things, rhetorical awareness can be even more effective if it is considered while also keeping in mind the principles of user-centered design. Don’t get me wrong, both techniques are surely effective separately, I have just found in my personal experience that when combined, these two techniques can be extraordinarily effective in written communication!

iStock_000003795732_crop380wAgain, at this point I would surely be asking how I could possibly accomplish this and I’m sure many of you are too. The answer lies in careful, patient practice. By integrating the elements on user centered design (all about the reader) with the elements of rhetorical awareness (purpose and context) you will be far more effective in your written communications. I also found that once I started to integrate both of these elements into my writing I met with far less friction and inefficiency in the process of communication.

I hope these pointers have been as helpful for you as they were for me! Best of luck in your future writing fellow millennials!

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4 thoughts on “The Dynamic Duo of Rhetorical Awareness and User-Centered Design

  1. Hello Sarah! I loved how you quickly provided dialogue in your intro that can be relatable to both you and your audience. After the example that included a common dilemma, you did not hesitate to let the audience know they can improve their situation through a few simple steps. It was smart to define User Centered Design early on to make sure your audience was clear on the basis of the information in your body. Once you defined UCD the material was backed up with personal experience and legitimate sources through your links. Throughout the entire post, you clearly tailored your tone toward the millennial audience and this provided a massive amount of credibility to your blog overall. Your post was extremely clear and descriptive without adding unnecessary information. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Sarah! First off I really liked your title “The Dynamic Duo of Rhetorical Awareness and User-Centered Design” and felt that it drew me in to want to read more. It livened up the otherwise boring topics of rhetorical awareness and user-centered design. I also liked how you briefly mentioned and explained the three components of rhetorical awareness and then expanded on them more down below. It really brought everything you said full circle and allowed the audience to see how the three components work together. I enjoyed how you also brought the two main concepts together and have a personal account for how, when combined, rhetorical awareness and user-centered design can be extraordinarily effective in written communication. Nice job overall!

  3. Hi Sarah! Terrific post. I particularly liked your use of a word cloud. I think this kind of visual image really helps the audience understand the subject matter. In addition I really enjoyed how you referred to the topics as a “dynamic duo” implying that it’s difficult to have one, without the other. I think that’s a very valid point for this topic. In order to have great writing is important to have both rhetorical awareness and user-centered design. User centered design is really important to written communication- even though it may not appear so at first. I think you do a really great job hashing this out. Especially dividing it up into purpose, audience, and context. The break down of these topics really aided in my personal understanding and I’m sure your audience will feel the same. All in all, good job, awesome post!

  4. Hey first of all this post just grasped my attention immediately reading through so many of these and this just caught my eye. The dialogue in the introduction really put me at your level which is really well incorporated in this article. The way this whole blog post is structured so well that it really gives an order to the process which is very well incorporated. The separation of the topics you chose really helped me understand and I can assume your audience also felt this way also. Your photos as an added bonus made me laugh a little!
    All in all this is a great post.

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