Written Persuasion: Explained through Genre Analysis
By Luke Anders
WRI 111: Writing Seminar
To read Student Editor Yushuo Wang’s comments on the writing moves found in this essay, click on or hover over the footnotes within the text.
The award-winning work of Ernest Hemingway, the barely legible graffiti on the nearby overpass, and the flying bull logo and nutrition label on the empty Red Bull can that lies smashed on your car floor, share a common feature. 1 A relatable lead-in sentence that draws the attention of the audience, bringing up the main topic of the passage. On the surface, it may be difficult to envision how three vastly different genres of writing are similar. However, by taking a step back, it is evident that the authors of these writings all aim to persuade the reader. While conventions and variations exist among the infinite number of genres, I will argue that the overarching purpose of all writing is to persuade. I will demonstrate that all writing fulfills the purpose of persuasion by analyzing intra-genre conventions and variations of a self-sponsored genre (Instagram posts) and a school-sponsored genre (political science papers). Likewise, I will examine inter-genre similarities and differences between the two. 2 A clear layout providing an indicator of the following content. Through doing so, a line of reasoning supports the claim that all writing fulfills a persuasive purpose, and suggests that different genres, conventions and variations within, better appeal to different audiences.
Conventions and variations are contained in the many genres of writing. These allow us to compare and contrast written work within the same genre, and across multiple genres. Through this examination process, we can better understand how certain genres, conventions and variations within, better appeal to different audiences. Three samples of undergraduate political science papers, that fall within a school-sponsored genre, will help to demonstrate this. All three of these papers respond to the same exigence: a class assignment that requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular political institution. Similarly, all three works are submitted by undergraduate students at Wake Forest University. In this paper, phrases such as “progressive democratization,” (Anders) “reinvigorate economic growth,” (Anders, “South Africa”) and “non-confessional movement” (Sebree) reflect the authors’ attempts to convey scholarly tones in their writings. Likewise, the authors of all three samples adhere to a standard MLA Eighth Edition format: inclusive of a standardized header, page number listing, typeface size, and citation page. 3 With good perception, Luke visualized the conventions within the same genre for us by identifying their similarities.
These samples are not identical. The author and specific content covered in the three papers vary. These variations allow us to acknowledge that not all works within a genre must appear alike. In fact, these variations are similar. They foster the higher goal of persuasion, by appealing to different audiences. The obvious conventions, the tone, standardized formatting, author-audience relationship, exigence, and purpose, allow us to catalog these works in the same niche, school-sponsored genre.
The shared exigence, author occupation, and scholarly tone demonstrate that within this specific genre of political science papers, there is a shared student-professor relationship between the author and audience. The tone and standardized formatting link the author to the audience as it demonstrates the student’s knowledge to the professor. The scholarly tone and author-audience relationship reflect the student’s pursuit of persuading the professor that they are knowledgeable of a certain political topic and deserve a good mark. 4 This is a well-made point in that it identifies a situation we are part of almost every day but perhaps not aware of. The narrow scope of this genre, as compared to other genres, is demonstrated through the similar tone, student-professor relationship, and standardized formatting.
The art of persuasion can also be observed through examining the conventions and variations of a self-sponsored genre, such as an Instagram post. By examining three Instagram posts, it can be argued that the conventions and variations of Instagram posts allow the author to target different audiences in their pursuit of fulfilling the overarching persuasive purpose. Instagram gives authors (“posters”) the creative liberty to craft a post’s caption with infinite variations. Some authors may choose to write a caption in a scholarly tone. One may crack a joke. One might caption her post with a single word. Others may choose to deliver their message through emojis. The infinitive variations that can occur within captions can also be applied to Instagram comments. 5 Here is a worthy example of how a transitive sentence links two sides, posters and commenters, of an issue. Commenters serve a unique role as secondary authors, publishing their thoughts in response to a post. As with the caption feature, commenters can develop a response with as many conventions or variations as they desire.
Within the self-sponsored genre of Instagram, I examine three sample posts: from a personal account, a professional sports news outlet, and a popular band’s page. The variations among these samples are most evident. First, the audience of all three authors varies. The audience of the personal account is presumably family, friends, and acquaintances of the author (see fig. 1). The audience of the professional sports news outlet is presumably sports fans (fig. 2). The audience of the band is likely music lovers and groupies (fig. 3).
(figure 1): Anders, Luke.
(figure 2): ACC Network.
(figure 3): The Maine Band.
Different from the samples in the school-sponsored genre, the context of these Instagram samples varies. One is responding to a personal interest, one responds to the accomplishments of a notable sports figure, and one produces excitement and incites action for the band’s upcoming tour. These variations demonstrate the wide scope of this genre.
Another notable variation among the samples is the tone employed by the authors. In the personal post, the caption’s tone is sardonic (i.e., “Boston College? don’t know her”), demonstrated through a celebratory yet poking line (see fig. 1). In the professional sports news outlet post, the author provides a series of facts and statistics (e.g., “11-3 record”) that support his argument of Sam Hartman’s success (fig. 2). By doing so, the author establishes an informative, factual tone. In the band’s post, the tone is energetic. This tone is established through the author’s choice of words and punctuation such as “So excited” and “!!!” (fig. 3). 6 In an example-and-detail format, Luke achieved readability by not only giving us the “what” but also the “how.”
While there are many variations, it is also worth noting the conventions. After all, it is the conventions that allow these three works to exist within the same genre. The samples are subjected to the confines of Instagram’s default post format. The font and text size are consistent and cannot change. The comment feature allows the authors of comments to provide their thoughts on a post. While the tone, style, and content of the comment may vary, the font and text size do not. Additionally, all comments are subject to a short-character maximum set by Instagram. 7 We may be too used to and immersed in the use of Instagram to realize its conventions. However, readers will experience that eureka moment after Luke brought it up.
On the surface, it may be difficult to find conventions when juxtaposing three wildly different Instagram posts. However, a more nuanced examination of the samples allows us to compile them into the same genre. Within the genre, authors of the three posts are attempting to persuade their respective audiences that what they are posting is notable, appealing to their followers, and worth a “LIKE.” Although the purpose is persuasion, the approach to fulfill it must vary based upon what appeals to the audience and their expectations. Crafting a unique Instagram post, allows the author to employ creative methods (e.g., use of emojis, all caps, all lowercase, a mix) to express both his unique identity and persuade the audience to his point-of-view.
Most would concur that the purpose of writing is to persuade in some way. The purpose of this paper is to influence you to agree that the flexible qualities of genre support an author’s inherent intent to persuade their audience. Among the samples examined in the chosen school-sponsored genre (political science papers) and self-sponsored genre (Instagram posts) there are many differences. The tone and style are not similar when comparing samples from the two genres. The author-audience relationship is unique to each genre and can vary intra-genre, and the exigence of each genre is different. While these differences are stark among the samples I have examined, they do share a similar trait: an elastic quality that fulfills a persuasive purpose. 8 An insightful point of how differences can be similar. Fulfilling the persuasive purpose requires that an author chooses an appropriate genre, and applies conventions and variations intra-genre, to effectively appeal to their target audience. In an Instagram post, the author persuades the audience to interact with her post, maybe even comment. In a political science paper, the student persuades the professor to acknowledge his understanding of a certain topic, and reward him with a good mark.
In the narratives of Ernest Hemingway, he persuades the reader to continue reading and hopefully find some meaning or personal connection within the work. The artist of the barely legible graffiti on Third Street’s overpass persuades passersby to appreciate the work’s artistic spirit and acknowledge the artist’s expression of identity. The nutrition label and dueling bulls logo on the Red Bull can, lying smashed on your car’s floor, persuade the consumer to accept the nutritional values as factual and believe that by drinking the Red Bull, it may just give you wings. 9 Skillfully and artfully, Luke created a loop that ties back to the beginning of his essay. The art of persuasion lives among all these examples of writing in different genres.
ACC Network [@accnetwork]. “Sam Hartman at ACC Media Days” Instagram, sourced by Luke Anders, 1 Jan. 2022, https://www.instagram.com/p/CYNpiaTtKJS/
Anders, Luke [@luke.c.anders]. “Boston College?” Instagram, sourced by Luke Anders, 7 Nov. 2021, https://www.instagram.com/p/CWzT_biDoPE0aBC3Jsru0RZrv8_NC4vufxLCjk0/.
Anders, Luke. Comparing World Democracies Case Studies of New Zealand and Venezuela. Wake Forest University, 14 Sept. 2021, pp. 1–6, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1U7D5K8d-4onVFZqNgSi6CO0kbxPkmoEN/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=107539147048697937514&rtpof=true&sd=true.
—. South Africa and Dominant Party Rule. Wake Forest University, 22 Oct. 2021, pp. 1–7, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b97X_elGNYPEXbgzHqL-W9ILcEOPW7xr/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=107539147048697937514&rtpof=true&sd=true.
The Maine Band. Screenshot of Instagram Post, “The XOXO Tour.” Instagram, 21 Feb. 2022, instagram.com/p/CaP0PHHJCO8/?igshid=NWRhNmQxMjQ=.
Persuasive Writing Is Getting the Reader to Say “Yes.” https://www.dailywritingtips.com/persuasive-writing-is-getting-the-reader-to-say-yes/#:~:text=All%20writing%2C%20in%20a%20sense,least%20sympathize%2C%20with%20a%20premise.&text=The%20principles%2C%20regardless%20of%20the,format%2C%20are%20essentially%20the%20same. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.
Sebree, Sam. Turkey, Erdogan, and the AKP. Wake Forest University, 22 Oct. 2021, pp. 1–5, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GR5u7r16kE2oMwdjVLhqxbpNLr4qn99H/view?usp=sharing.
From Luke Anders
A teacher once told me you must know the rules of writing before you can break them. For what it’s worth, I certainly don’t know every rule of writing, or even most of them. But like this essay, I broke the rules of writing and crafted an essay that is unconventional. I want to thank Dr. Alisa Russell for her guidance during the writing process and for giving me the confidence to write in my own way. Thanks to the safe learning environment that she created, when assigned this essay I felt empowered to write without the fear of being edited or criticized. Authenticity in writing is important to find because you are your own writer with your own knowledge, lived experiences, and goals. I chose to write this essay authentically. What may feel experimental at first will pay off. Your best work will always be in your own voice and true to how you feel.
My biggest challenge when writing this essay, and writing in general, has been finding my style. How can I find a style that is unique to me, and that can be used in all situations? This assignment was a turning point in the search for my style. I treated the writing process as an experiment. I penned my rawest observations and tossed aside a traditional scholarly tone that was not reflective of my voice. I have not mastered my style, but this essay marks a good start. I hope that after reading this essay, you better understand the role of genre and persuasion in writing. More importantly though, I hope that you can gain the confidence to write authentically, share your truth, and find your own style.
From Professor Alisa Russell
It’s difficult to realize just how DENSE Luke’s comparative analysis of these two genres — political science papers and Instagram posts — is because it reads so smoothly. He introduces the concept of genre, analyzes the conventions and variations of two different genres, and uses the comparison of those separate analyses to make a larger claim about how writing works in general — all within 1,600 words! Part of why Luke’s complex argument is so easy to follow is because of the work he’s doing with transitions and key words. Luke establishes key words in his introduction, and then he draws on those key words throughout the paper’s topic sentences and again in each paragraph’s analysis. Along with transitions that make use of what I call the old/new contract (repeating old information before adding on the new information), these moves create a crystal-clear reading experience for the reader to keep track of all of these complex connections and arguments. And the arguments are indeed complex and incredibly insightful! Luke gets to the heart of all writing forms: that every genre works because it has, in his words, an “elastic quality” that uses conventions to create shared expectations between an author and audience but uses variations to individualize for a particular situation or persuasive purpose. Perhaps my favorite part of this exceptional paper is the conclusion: Luke looks beyond the two genres he analyzed to consider how the principles he found in that analysis apply to all writing forms. And this isn’t just an academic exercise — Luke emphasizes how our writing practices tell us something about how our society operates by having this persuasive influence inherent in our written communication. This work matters!
“Analysis” literally means breaking down the parts to understand how they create the whole. When we analyze genres, we are breaking down their rhetorical elements to better understand how they come together as a whole to get things done in the world. We want to carry out purposes for certain audiences – these are the rhetorical situations that genres respond to and construct. Being able to recognize, interpret, and evaluate genres for their summative parts is a skill you need both as a reader and a writer: As a reader, analyzing genres can help you better realize the purpose of texts and what your response can/should be. As a writer, analyzing genres can help you figure out how to write in an unfamiliar genre or what kind of variation you can/should include.
#1. For this assignment, you will first collect samples of your own writing in two different genres – one “school-sponsored” genre and one “self-sponsored” genre.
For a “school-sponsored” genre, you may choose three examples of a genre that you’ve written in high school or in college (e.g., a literary analysis, a lab report, an in-class journal, exam essays, etc.)
For a “self-sponsored” genre, you may choose three examples of a genre that you’ve written outside of school. These might include (but are in no way limited to):
- journal/diary/blog entries
- social media posts or text messages (10 = one example)
- club, sport, or other organizational documents
- college applications/personal essays
- stories or poetry
#2. You will rhetorically analyze these genres to determine their conventions (what rhetorical elements are similar) and their variations (what rhetorical elements differ). Some rhetorical elements you may want to consider might include:
- Author, Audience, and Context
- Main Claims and Purpose
- Evidence and Appeals
- Organization and Formatting
- Tone and Style
#3. Then, you will consider what these rhetorical patterns reveal about these two genres comparatively. You might consider:
- What do the rhetorical patterns reveal about the genre and its situation?
- What can you learn about the actions being performed through the genre by observing its patterns?
- What values, beliefs, goals, and assumptions are revealed through the genre’s patterns?
- What actions do the genre help make possible? What actions do the genre make difficult?
An exemplary final draft will:
- forefront a clear and insightful comparison of your two genres
- integrate clear and specific evidence from the genre samples to showcase the conventions and variations
- analyze the why behind these conventions and variations
- include logical connections both within and between paragraphs
- be written in an effective and consistent tone/style
- reach ~1,000 words
- 1A relatable lead-in sentence that draws the attention of the audience, bringing up the main topic of the passage.
- 2A clear layout providing an indicator of the following content.
- 3With good perception, Luke visualized the conventions within the same genre for us by identifying their similarities.
- 4This is a well-made point in that it identifies a situation we are part of almost every day but perhaps not aware of.
- 5Here is a worthy example of how a transitive sentence links two sides, posters and commenters, of an issue.
- 6In an example-and-detail format, Luke achieved readability by not only giving us the “what” but also the “how.”
- 7We may be too used to and immersed in the use of Instagram to realize its conventions. However, readers will experience that eureka moment after Luke brought it up.
- 8An insightful point of how differences can be similar.
- 9Skillfully and artfully, Luke created a loop that ties back to the beginning of his essay.