English and Literature
Rhetorical Situation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
As student writers, you often respond to rhetorical situations unknowingly. Case in point, an e-mail to a friend would likely differ in language, formality, and context than an e-mail to a professor. “Rhetoric” centers on how meaning is expressed, including language and tone. The rhetorical situation asks the writer to consider the context in which he or she is communicating. To be effective, one needs to understand and respond to rhetorical situations properly.
Evaluate rhetorical situations in terms of writer, audience, topic, purpose, and context (both within the immediate rhetorical situation and culturally)
Respond to specific rhetorical situations appropriately
Choose effective word choices and tone according to audience, purpose, and context
Become more aware of rhetorical situations in writing
Use the following scenario to create two e-mails: one to a friend and/or classmate, and the other to the English Department Chairperson.
Purpose: (1) express anger/disappointment to friend/classmate and (2) a call to action from Dept. Chairperson
Audience: (1) friend and/or classmate and (2) English Dept. Chairperson
Scenario: You are currently enrolled in an introductory composition course online. You have completed numerous small assignments so far, as well as three essays. You have received limited feedback, most of which focused on grammatical errors, and there has been little to no explanation for the grades you’ve received. Currently you have a “C” average, but a poor grade on the research paper could very well lead to a “D” or even a failing grade. You have attempted to contact your instructor through various means, but the instructor has not responded to your satisfaction. First, create an e-mail to a friend and/or classmate regarding this scenario. Next, create an e-mail to the English Dept. Chairperson. Be sure to respond properly to the rhetorical situation.
**Fill-in the details to your particular situation, as to create a detailed e-mail (e.g. I’ve sent three e-mails, all of which have gone unanswered). Make the details believable, however.
Also, remember this is a hypothetical situation. You will not actually send these e-mails. Instead, you will type both e-mails in the same document (see example below), including a hypothetical subject line.
Scenario: A casual friend’s spouse has contacted you inappropriately, implying he or she would like to engage you in an extramarital affair. You immediately send off two e-mails in response: one to a friend who knows this would-be adulterer, but not directly involved in a friendship, and the other to your own spouse and/or significant other.
Subject: OMG, You’re not going to believe this!
Hey. U R not going to believe the e-mail I just got from that creepy dude Ana Donovan is married to. He seriously just asked me if I wanted to meet him for drinks since she’s out of town. He said “who knows what might happen after that.” Creepy! You think I should tell Ana?
Subject: Fences make for good neighbors
Hey love. I hope you’ve had an interesting day at work. Mine has certainly been interesting, especially considering Ana Donovan’s husband just sent me the creepiest e-mail ever. I don’t even know how he got my e-mail address. I’ll tell you about it when we get home.
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