Web Rhetorics for a Digital Age: The Medium AND the Message

By Jason Snart, College of Dupage

What does it mean to be a "good writer"?

So you are a writer and you want to be as effective as possible in communicating what you have to say. This means being good with words, right?

Yes. In part.

As we've just seen, being a "good writer"—or an effective communicator—these days really means having a clear sense of what "rhetorical choices" will work best in certain "writing situations."

So more than ever—more than Marshall McLuhan may have ever imagined—understanding the medium of communication and the rhetorical strategies that will work best in that medium is crucial.

Let's now turn to the Web as one of the most prevalent, and accessible, of modern media. Being aware of the many kinds of writing situations that the Web presents can hone your skills as an effective communicator. You can learn to make smart choices about many different kinds of rhetorical situations.

The examples and exercises that follow will ask you to analyze and think about the many different kinds of writing situations that the Web offers.

You will also have the opportunity to practice writing in various Web genres. This will give you some direct experience in communicating in a number of different rhetorical situations on the Web.

Hopefully, in thinking about the Web as a collection of many writing situations, and by practicing your skills as a writer in some of these situations, you will be able to improve your abilities as an effective communicator more generally.

You will ideally notice, as you look at the examples and work through the exercises, just how variable the many writing situations on the Web actually are. The better you get at analyzing different kinds of writing situations, the better you will become at tailoring your written communication to a particular setting—in other words, the better you will get at understanding how "the medium is the message."