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Published on October 25th, 2006 | by Rahel Bailie


Genre analysis and the technical communicator

Genre analysis isn’t really discussed much in technical communication circles, but an understanding of this concept can be quite helpful to understanding structured writing to content management. As I wrote the title to this article, I thought it sounded like the name of a movie or a book and wondered how I could make a connection between structured writing and some of the more noteworthy films of various genres: Smokey and the Bandit? Anna and the King? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Beauty and the Beast? Or more like Monty Python and the Holy Grail? And what does this all have to do with content management?

When we think of entertainment genres, we can pick out the elements and structure of content relatively easily. For example, we know that Western movie has a hero with a white hat, a villain with a black hat, a love interest for the hero, a saloon, a gun, and a horse. We know that there will be a shoot-out, where the villain dies, and the hero wins and gets the girl. A romantic comedy has a socially awkward protagonist, the love interest, a “straight man” who feeds lines to the protaganist, a situation which prevents the protagonist from becoming involved with the love interest, and a “grand gesture” situation that brings them together. But what about documentation genres? What are they and how do we work with them?

Next time: technical communication genres I’ve known and loved

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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