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Adapt the genre to the forum

The place where you carry on your conversations with your visitors--the Web site, or your particular area within the site--acts as a forum in which several communities come together.

Each of these niche audiences has its own vocabulary, its own ideas of what is fashionable, valuable, or innovative, its own arguments and controversies, its own fixed opinions.

So, if you are trying to become a member of one of these communities, your effort to fit in will affect the way you write, no matter what genre you are working in.

But the forum itself imposes its own rules, values, and style.

The forum--including all the people who participate in the conversation there--defines

  • Whether a particular topic is required, acceptable, or never to be mentioned
  • Whether one of the genre's component elements is really important, optional, or definitely to be included
  • Whether one of the genre's conventional styles really works
  • Whether one persona pleases, amuses, reassures, or bores.

When you first enter a forum, you do not yet understand all the conventions and assumptions of the communities there. You may make mistakes, embarrass yourself.

But gradually you become socialized. You learn how to write for these folks.

After a while, though, you outgrow the conventions, and start to challenge some of the constraints, dead ideas, and ossified beliefs.

Only in this way can you remain in the community, while giving your own perspective on the issues it holds dear, carving out your own identity. You begin to transform the genre, taking it in a new direction, making it more your own.






But to use a genre freely and creatively is not the same as to create a genre from the beginning; genres must be fully mastered in order to be manipulated freely.
-Mikhail Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Essays.


What genre does your audience want from you?


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