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A genre has a conventional structure.
One way to understand the purpose of a genre is to figure out what type of question it answers.
here are some questions that have provoked earlier generations of writers
to develop certain genres: So, when you approach a new type of content, ask yourself: what is
the basic question this genre responds to?
So, when you approach a new type of content, ask yourself: what is the basic question this genre responds to?
Writing in a genre (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 770K, or about 13 minutes at 56K)
Once the audience has gotten your attention with a broad question, and persuaded you to write in a particular genre in response to that question, you discover that, buried inside that larger question, the audience may have a whole set of follow-up questions, which come up in a certain order.
In fact, the follow-up questions often fall into a nested hierarchy.
For instance, within the basic question, "How do I do this?" (which we reply to with a procedure) are smaller questions such as, "What tools do I need to get ready?" and "What should my work look like now?"
In response to questions like these, writers have come up with tool lists ("You need a Phillips head screwdriver") and illustrations inside the steps ("Insert Tab A into Slot B").
So the procedure, as a genre, has a set of components that must be included, and convention-the rough agreement of thousands of writers over many years-dictates a certain way of organizing those components.
For instance, to be a procedure, a text must include at least one instruction--a step the reader should take. That step answers the key question, "What do I do next?"
But a procedure may also contain other elements, each of which addresses a particular question the reader might ask in this context. Here are some of the follow-up questions that may lead to figuring out particular pieces of a procedure:
You can see that these questions--and the elements that carry your responses--follow a rough sequence.
If you were creating a diagram of a generic procedure, you might draw a nested hierarchy, indicating which elements were optional, and which were required and in what order--essentially, a Document Type Definition (DTD) for the genre. In fact, genres are informal analogies of the content models you create for XML delivery.
A genre acts as a general model, an uncodified but widely acknowledged structure, with an implied style.
Each writer, through pressure, inspiration, or laziness, will twist the model a little, to fit a particular context. But even with these variations, you must write so that visitors will quickly recognize that the text is following an established convention with a familiar structure.
What genre does your audience want from you?
Writing that Works!