Rhetorical Situation. Rhetorical Situation. The rhetorical situation is the underlying factor that affects every exchange that occurs. Every piece of communication, both written and spoken, relies on consideration of the factors that make up the rhetorical situation. These factors are:.
The rhetorical situation is the underlying factor that affects every exchange that occurs. Every piece of communication, both written and spoken, relies on consideration of the factors that make up the rhetorical situation. These factors are:
Purpose is arguably the most important aspect of communication. It is the reason why people have chosen to speak or write. Politicians give speeches to persuade others to vote for them. Novelists writes books to entertain. Technical writers write manuals to inform.
A piece of communication can have more than one purpose. For example, Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple just unveiled the iPhone 4. His purpose is to both inform about the product and persuade consumers to buy it. The A&E television show Cold Case Files presents factual information about old crimes that both entertains and informs.
Take a minute to think about some of the reasons you had for recent communications with others. For example:
Why did you contact a relative?
Why did you update your resume?
Why did you enroll (or drop) a college class?
When we communicate, we must always think about to whom the communication is aimed. A book about animals for preschoolers would look very different than a book about animals for a veterinary student. The purpose, to inform, might be the same but the audience would determine just how much information the book contained. The audience would also determine the language used to convey the message.
Take a minute to think about how some of your recent communications changed based on the audience. For example:
When contacting your relative, how did you describe a bad day at work?
On your resume, did you describe a bad day at work, or just list your responsibilities?
When you enrolled (or dropped) a class, did you mention any job
related details or just that it was the reason for your recent decision?
How information is presented is just as important as who it is presented to. The medium (or media), is what’s used to convey the message.
Consider an informative piece on how women can gradually save money throughout the year that appears in Time magazine and is broadcast on Lifetime Movie Network.
The purpose and audience are the same, however one can be accessed repeatedly, as necessary, throughout the year. The other was a one time viewing, accessible only to those with cable, and viewable only to those who happen to be watching that channel at that moment.
In this example, it is evident that themedium has affected the message.
Take a minute to consider what medium you used in recent communications. For example:
When contacting your relative, did you call, write a letter, e-mail?
Is your resume, handwritten or typed? Did you use bold type throughout, pink paper, or add perfume?
When you enrolled (or dropped) a course, did you call or go to the
office, fill out a form, and wait for a copy of the form?
How you feel about your communication often comes through in the words or the medium used. This is your stance.
Imagine discussing a raise with your boss. You could demand the money (“give me a raise”), ask for it (“I would like a raise, please”), or you could put together a presentation that shows why you have earned a raise.
Each stance shows that you want the money, however only two display a respect for your boss, and only one actually shows a respect for the time and finances of the company.
For this reason it is important to know what you want to communicate and how you want to communicate it.
Take a minute to consider how you expressed yourself during a recent communication. For example:
When contacting your relative, what words did you use? How long
was the communication? How long are your usual communications?
Is what words did you use in your resume? Are they neutral words or
words that imply how you felt about your previous jobs
When you enrolled (or dropped) a course, were pleasant to
the enrollment advisor or were you curt and dismissive?
Genre is the type of communication being used. This is the easiest of the five elements because this is usually chosen for you and/or it is largely based on your purpose and audience.
For example, in a history class, the professor will tell you to report information (genre).
The professor will also provide information such as:
- Whether you are to write a paper or give a presentation (medium)
-Who it is for (audience)
-The reason your assignment (purpose).
If the professor did not provide the genre, but gave you a purpose (to inform) or audience (classmates), then it is obvious that no matter what the medium, you would be giving an informative report (genre).
Take a minute to consider what category of writing used in recent communications. For example:
When you contacted your relative, what genre did you use?
What genre would your resume fall into?
When you write a paper for an English literature class,
what genre will that paper most likely fall into?
Each element of the rhetorical situation depends on the others. The purpose affects the medium, the audience, the genre, and your stance. By that same token, the medium will affect the audience you reach, the genre you use, and your stance- it may even change your purpose. No matter what element you start with, the others must be considered if you plan to communicate effectively.