Professor Joshua Belknap | Co Req ML | Spring 2022

5/4/22 McMillen “What is the Rhetorical Situation and Why Should I Care About it?”

This essay by McMillen is helpful in thinking about your final research project, in the ways we’ve been talking about this semester (rhetorical strategies, aims, moves, audience, effective genre choice, etc.). Please annotate and post three (3) comments on this article in our Perusall class site, and respond to at least three (3) comments by others. We will also be answering questions 14 – 24 from the below document (questions from pages 113-117 in the article), and also choose four (4) other questions to answer and post on the class OpenLab site.

McMillen What is the Rhetorical Situation and Why Should I Care?

  1. What expectations for writing assignments are consistent whether completed for English, science, history, or another class?
  2. How do expectations for various kinds of classes vary? (99)
  3. Sometimes the word “rhetoric” is used to mean baloney, as in “that’s just rhetoric.” The implication is that language is being used persuasively to manipulate people, but there is little of substance beyond the language. (100)
  4. If you do an online search for definitions of “rhetoric,” what do you find? Are the definitions connected to one another? (100)
  5. What other groupings can you create? How would you label each group? (101)
  6. Can you think of other types of writing that change in style and content as the purpose and audience shift? Consider the examples of writing listed above (101) or other kinds of writing that you’re familiar with.
  7. Google “How to email a professor.” In what ways does the advice you find consider audience, purpose, or genre? (102)
  8. Can you give another example of how a rhetor/writer manages to fill a purpose by communicating in ways that are sensitive to the perspective or situation of the audience/reader? (103)
  9. Can you give an example of a rhetor/writer communicating in a way that seemed unaware of the audience’s perspective and was thus unsuccessful in filling the purpose of communication? (103)
  10. Do a search for images of the rhetorical triangle. What do you find? Is there a particular image you especially like? Why? (104)
  11. When thinking about discourse communities, it’s often helpful to think about learning to speak in a new context, noticing when another person hasn’t quite understood or grasped how to speak within a particular context, or recognizing how noticeable it can be when habits from one communication context are used in a different communication context. In other words, it’s often easiest to recognize discourse communities by noticing when the boundaries are transgressed in some way. Can you think of any instances the fit any of these situations? (108)
  12. Think of a time when you felt like an “outsider” or when you noticed someone else seemed like an “outsider,” whether online or in real life. What signs showed outsider status? To what degree did this outsider status change as the individual became part of the community of practice? Did the individual need to change in some way for this to happen? (109)
  13. McMillen mentions the importance of recognizing disciplinary similarities and differences several times in the article. When has it been helpful to notice similarities or differences in writing for different subjects you’ve completed for school? (111)
  14. Can you think of a movie that depicts a discourse community? How can you tell it’s a discourse community? (113)
  15. What dialects are you aware of in your own life? To what degree are these dialects stigmatized in negative ways? (113)
  16. Can you think of an example of code meshing that worked effectively? (113)
  17. Choose a genre you read or write as an expert—perhaps an Instagram post or notes taken during class. What criteria might you use to evaluate whether a particular instance of this genre was well done or not? (114)
  18. How might developing criteria for less familiar genres be helpful? (114)
  19. Generate a list of rules that you’ve been taught in various situations of school writing. What do you notice about these “rules”? (117)
  20. Have you ever noticed that most writing rules apply in some situations but not others? What increased your awareness of these shifts? (117)
  21. Have you ever laughed about a person who was texting or using social media for the first time and didn’t seem to understand convention in those spaces? What are some examples? What’s similar about that situation and the kinds of conventions that teachers articulate about school writing? What’s different? (117)
  22. When is it okay to judge another person by their dialect, spelling, use of grammar conventions, and so forth? (117)
  23. When is such judgment inappropriate? (117)
  24. In what situations is it appropriate or inappropriate to correct the way another person speaks? (117)


  1. Aleksandra Patyra

    1. The consistent expectations are usually – proper grammar, formal and professional language and consist of clear message to the audience

    2. When writing a piece for biology class you will use a completely different language than when writing for English class. For Biology class you will use more scientific language that your teacher will understand. For English class you will focus more on the genre, tone and grammar.

    10. The images are mostly the same, some of them are more colorful and some have more text. I prefer easy to read images that have a simple text in them

    12.Yes! I felt like that many times. Always then I start a new job I feel like outsider. In dentistry there is specific language that everyone working in this field needs to understand but every dental office has different terminology in terms of some procedures. It usually takes me a week to “learn” the new language and start talking the same way as everybody so I am understood by others.

  2. Esmeralda Ensaldo

    1) Expectations for writing assignments that are consistent whether completed for English, science, history, or another class are that the writing communicates effectively the message according to the audience and context.
    2) Expectations for various kind of classes vary since each of them tries to target a different audience and has a different purpose, it depends on the rhetorical situation.
    3) It’s not just baloney, using language to manipulate people but using the correct language in the different situations and audience you are communicating to.
    4) Yes, the definitions for rhetoric are connected. it says it’s the study of how language constructs meanings and creates knowledge. All the definitions include language and how this influences or impacts people.
    5) Another group I can create is “writings to show affection” and put letters (letters to fam. and friends), greeting cards..

  3. Sabina Akhi

    14. A discourse community is a group of people involved in and communicating about a particular topic, issue, or in a particular field. According to “The Concept of Discourse Community,” by educator and researcher John Swales, a discourse community is defined by six characteristics.
    15 Protest any labels that turn people into things. Words are important. If you want to care for something, you call it a ‘flower;’ if you want to kill something, you call it a ‘weed.’”
    16. Code-meshing offers an instructional framework that incorporates multiple languages into classrooms, interrogates notions of which languages are “correct” or “appropriate” within those spaces, and broadens how to approach writing instruction for linguistically diverse students.
    17. So, maybe you are new to writing and want to dip your toes in the novel writing realm. You quickly realize how many genres, and subgenera, are out there and wonder where you can squeeze in.
    Or, maybe you have a great idea for a story but unsure what genre you want it to be a part of. There are a few factors that decide which genre you should write.
    18. It allows students and writers to learn more about the different styles and techniques to be appropriate in various forms of writing.
    19. Generate a list of rules that you’ve been taught in various situations of school
    Using kind words. Listening to other teachers and staff in the school.
    Listening to your peers.
    Having a respectful tone.
    Treating the classroom and school materials nicely.
    Respecting personal space and peoples personal requests.

  4. Emely

    1- The expectations for writing assignments are based on grammar, punctuation, coherence, communicating the message effectively, and so on.

    6- Types of writing that change in style and content as the purpose and audience shift are emails, letters, cell phone texts, etc…

    4- Rhetoric is the art of persuasive or effective speaking and writing. The language will have an effect on its audience. All the definitions that are provided on the internet are connected.

    16- Code meshing refers to bringing different types of dialects together to a particular situation. For instance, I may use informal English and Standard English at a meeting with my family.

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