Chapter 6 Writing genres ‘How we are expected to write affects what we can write about.’
Learning objectives On completion of this chapter students will know how to: • identify key features of academic and business texts • recognise the difference between formal and informal register • use language appropriate to business settings, taking into account issues of power.
What does ‘genre’ mean? • ‘Genre’ means style, kind or type. • Usually, ‘genre’ refers to a type of art or literature. • It can also refer to ways of speaking, types of movies or plays, or any written document. • In this context, ‘genre’ refers to the various types of texts that students need to learn and master.
Academic genres • The most common genre (type of text for assessment) at Australian universities is the essay. • In business there are other genres which are just as important: • reports • business letters • email communication.
Context and genre • Factors that impact on genre: • context • situation • audience • purpose of the text. • Consider each factor in relation to the essay genre. • Now think about the business context. How is it different to the academic context?
Business context • Business reports written in workplace: • audience = supervisor or ‘superior’ • usually someone with power • much at stake for the organisation • All documents have ‘regular, predictable patterns of organisation’ (Swales & Feak 1994, p. 10).
Activity 1 • See Activity 1 on pp 133–140 of your textbook. • Work in pairs. • Divide your page into five columns with the headings ‘personal email’, ‘business email’, ‘business letter’, ‘essay’ and ‘report’. • Examine each text and identify the different features. List the features of each text, using the suggestions in the annotations and at the bottom of the activity.
Applying knowledge of genres • In your business studies you will need to write in different genres, depending on the course, assessment and preference of your lecturers. • Sometimes the genres will be ‘mixed’. • Always be very clear about which genre is expected before submitting work for assessment.
‘The vocabulary shift’ • Need to move from informal to formal writing (academic and business contexts) • Choice between verb + preposition or a single verb (single verb is more formal). • Example: • The manager looked at the way tension builds up during performance review meetings.(less formal style) • The manager investigated the way tension develops during performance review meetings.(more formal style)
Activities 2 and 3 • Complete activities 2 and 3 on pp. 141–142 of your textbook.
More advice on formality • Avoid contractions (e.g. won’t = will not). • Use the more appropriate formal negative forms. Example • Do not write: The analysis didn’t yield any new results. • Write: The analysis yielded no new results. • Avoid run-on expressions such as ‘and so forth’ and ‘etc’. • Avoid using the first person ‘I’ and do not address the reader as ‘you’. Focus on the information rather than the writer or reader.
More advice on formality (cont.) • Avoid asking rhetorical questions such as ‘What can be done?’ • Use statements instead, such as ‘X needs to be considered’. • Do not place adverbs at the beginning or end of the sentence. Examples • Do not write: Then the solution can be discarded. • Write: The solution can then be discarded. • Do not write: The profits have increased slowly. • Write: The profits have slowly increased.
Summary • Different genres (texts) have distinct requirements in terms of structure, development, formality and acknowledgment of sources. • By learning and using the particular features of texts, writers can produce easy-to-read documents. • The context, particularly the power relations between the writer and receiver, affect the formality of the document.