In How Writing Works, you learned that a genre is a type of text that shares a common purpose and structure as well as common linguistic features. You probably learned that genre and purpose work hand-in-hand to communicate your message: readers expect to see these features when they encounter a given genre, and if the features are not in place, the purpose of the text is unclear. You are probably aware that discourse communities usually rely on certain genres in order to achieve the community’s goals. You may have written a genre analysis to demonstrate your academic knowledge of this important aspect of textual production. In doing that assignment (and many others in your first-year writing courses), you worked within the conventional genre typically called the academic paper. You wrote a thesis and topic sentences, provided textual evidence, and maintained an objective, studied tone—because that is the expectation of an academic discourse community.
Thinking Rhetorically: Writing for Professional and Public Audiences covers what you should consider when writing in genres beyond the academic paper—producing those types of texts suitable to a wide range of professional and public discourse communities. This chapter provides an explanation of what genre means and how a genre can serve various rhetorical functions.
The chapters in this section offer new perspectives on what it means to work within a genre.
“Genre” reviews the concept of genre as a type of text and gives tips on analyzing and evaluating genres in preparation for writing in professional and public settings. Especially important to note: historically genres have evolved to suit the needs of different communities, and any given genre should be evaluated according to the standards of the culture that produces it.
“Style” makes important distinctions between personal style (what we often call our voice in writing) and style determined by genre. This section explains why style is a rhetorical choice. Because particular genres serve certain purposes and audiences, even such stylistic issues as sentence length and concision need to be taken into account when composing a document.
“Page Design” emphasizes that different genres have different “looks,” or visual design. This section gives practical suggestions about what you should keep in mind to create a readable document, one that is attuned to your purpose and audience and is consistent with the expectations of your organization or community.