2 – Rhetorical Situation

Topic

Matt McKinney; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; and Anonymous

Although a self-evident component of any communication, the (or subject) is an important focal point for mapping any rhetorical situation. Specifically, the topic being discussed situates the audience’s and the deliverer’s assessment of one another, as well as the deliverer’s strategies in appealing to the audience. For example, if a company hires a consultant to improve its hiring practices in terms of diversity, focusing on the topic of diversity helps us both to understand why the speaker’s credentials might be relevant and also to anticipate how the company’s management and workforce might understand and respond to the speaker.

Clearly describing the topic in a document also provides a more holistic and neutral understanding of what is being discussed, as compared to the purpose, or why a writer is discussing something (see “Purpose” section). The consultant may have specific goals in terms of promoting diverse hiring in the company, but this is a narrower understanding of diversity than the speaker and audience may possess.

Lastly, delineating the topic provides an anchor for determining what background information is contextually relevant. For example, the political controversy surrounding affirmative action and workplace protection laws is relevant to diversity in a company, but other political issues such as prayer in schools may not be.

This text was derived from

University of Minnesota. Business Communication for Success. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, 2015. https://open.lib.umn.edu/businesscommunication/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Howdy or Hello? Technical and Professional Communication by Matt McKinney; Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; and Anonymous is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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