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

By Jason Snart, College of Dupage

Common Genres on the Web

Web logs (more commonly known as blogs)

Like Web sites, Web logs come in many varieties and they are intended to serve many different purposes. Some blogs are formal while some are informal. Some are serious, while some are ridiculous. And some blogs are the product of many contributing writers, while others are the product of just one.

Visit a blog hosting site to discover the wide variety of blogs out there:


Notice that some blogs are hosted by a service, like WordPress and Blogger.

Other blogs are part of larger Web sites, like the Web logs available at NPR.org.

"Annotated Web log"



Twitter is a Web tool that allows users to post to their Twitter pages—these posts are called "Tweets,"—but each post can be a maximum of only 140 characters. That's 140 characters, not 140 words.

Twitter sites can be updated from the Web but also from a mobile phone. So if you are at the grocery store and feel like updating your Twitter page (with something like, "Here I am at the grocery store. Tomatoes are on sale."), you could do so by using your cell phone.

As with Web logs, some Twitter pages are formal and serious. Others are not.

Given the flexibility and ease with which Twitter pages can be updated, along with the limited word count allowed for each Tweet update, Twitter provides one of the most interesting "rhetorical situations" on the Web.

Annotated Twitter page


Social networking sites

The most popular of these are Facebook and MySpace, though each functions in more or less the same way. Because they are designed for people to connect with one another and to share information about themselves, there are many "writing situations" to be found within a typical Facebook or MySpace page.

Consider these, for example:

If you look through various Facebook pages, you will undoubtedly discover many more writing situations. Consider how each is slightly different from the others.

Also, consider how sending an e-mail is different than posting something more generally on your Facebook page. An e-mail is "to" someone specifically. An update on your Facebook Profile page is not "to" any one person in particular. How does this difference affect the rhetorical choices you might make in each situation?