Test blog # 2

In “The Rhetoric of Reach: Preparing Students for Technical Communication in the age of Social Media,” authors Elise Hurley and Amy Hea contend that “technical communication instructors are well-suited to teach social media in our classrooms…” (2014, p. 56). I agree and believe students can benefits from the technical communicators expertise; especially since “know your audience” is the mantra of both. But why should they do it when they environments almost clash? Social media writing and technical communication are different “art” forms with different subjects, styles and intentions.


Social media writing is often emotional not persuasive, opinionated not factual, and careless instead of careful. Social media sells –  either oneself or a product. The design of social media communication is opposite that of technical communications’ thoughtfully created artifacts. Technical communication is grounded in scientific, instructional, or persuasive prose; professionalism is guaranteed. Technical communication aims to make complicated information clear. Social media writing is small: small spaces, small terms, and smaller sentences. It’s killing the elegance of writing.


In the 2015 article: “Are Social Media making us Stupid?” Liz Swan and Louis Golberg quote Sherry Turkle as stating “a fluency with texting and tweeting is commonly correlated with a dearth of skills in face-to-face interactions…and eroding the traditional divide between speaking and writing” (p. 8). And there’s a danger with “being out there.” Write “wrong” in an instructional document or report and the error can be quickly corrected. Do it online and it can kill a career or stall one yet to start. Reputations matter and one Google search and your boss is deciding if you’re their next best or least likely. Fortunately, this can be avoided and everyone has advice. Check out Time Magazine’s 10 Social Media Blunders That Cost a Millennial a Job – or Worse, or CIO with 6 Social Media Mistakes That Will Kill Your Career, or the mocking by Shurver.com of those who said a bit too much in 8 Careers Destroyed by Social Media.

Social media intersects professional communication with collaboration and content sharing, and reach and crowd-sourcing are  good heuristics for defining an active audience, and helping creator and consumer interact. Yes, technical communication instructors can help students improve their social media writing skills, but should it be their job? Perhaps in a visual rhetoric class, but in today’s social media climate wouldn’t a business or marketing professor do as well? What about an English Composition instructor? Or Miss Manners.




Posted on September 16, 2015, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi danalivesay,

    You bring up some good points. While social media can be all those negative things, such as emotional, impulsive, and seemingly careless, all of social media is not entirely like that. There are plenty of social media users who are looking for good quality information. Some of these people have formed their own communities, otherwise known as groups, to share quality knowledge. For example, there are writing groups and scientific groups, just to name a few.

    As for your comment, “design of social media communication is opposite that of technical communications’ thoughtfully created artifacts,” I would have to disagree. As someone who has created a number of technical instructions in text, photo, and video formats, I would say that technical writing and technical videos are still needed and desired. In fact, because of social media, I would say that the need for these is even greater, as people who are new to social media will be looking for good quality technical instructions in how to do specific things on social media, such as linking social media accounts together, how to upload a video, how to block or unblock someone, and etc.

    Now, while I do agree that if someone posts something inappropriate online, it lives forever and can hurt you career, my suggestion would be to write under a different name. Many people write under a different name for a variety of reasons, and one reason could be to avoid stalkers. I see no reason why after gaining a huge following that the author then decides to out him or herself, if they so choose. By that time, the author is famous and rich, and then it may no longer matter if something is said inappropriately as many rich and famous people can hire public relation managers to help make their reputations better.

    So please do not let the negative things scare you off from social media. As long as you post things that you would be fine with your parents reading, I say, have fun. And, if you would like to help others, maybe post a question asking what things people wished they could do on social media or knew how to do. Your technical instructions could be something that helps someone’s day go from frustration to a smile, as they finally learned how to do something that they have always wanted to do on social media, all because of your writing.

    • Hi

      I said “design of social media communication is opposite that of technical communications’ thoughtfully created artifacts,” I didn’t say it wasn’t needed. What I meant is that from what I see social media writing, posts, videos, articles mostly done by amateurs is sloppy and not well-crafted like technical manuals, thoughtfully written journal articles etc.

      As for writing under a different name, I find that unless it’s a cute, topic specific (Miss Manners etc), meant to protect someone’s actual safety etc, fake names afford a writer anonymity to say things they wouldn’t normally. But I think there should be topics off-limits. Don’t blog about my brother’s brain cancer or discuss medical procedures protected in a hospital setting. Just because something can be said doesn’t mean it should. And for all the “free-speech” people forget there’s a responsibility to not hurt or use words that incite. Sure everyone does it, but it doesn’t mean it’s right or good.

      I’m not afraid of social media; I use LinkedIn and Facebook. That’s all I have time or use for in my life. Being online takes me away from priorities like my kids or friends. But yes, I am wary and I’m sure I’ll learn more about the positives as we move forward.

  2. My response to your paragraph that focuses on fear and firing is this:

    In other words, there’s so much more to the web than the fear.

    I think your points about students learning social media skills in freshman comp and business/marketing courses are valid, but 1) it’s rare to find “traditional” English teachers who are willing to bring in social media, even on Stout’s laptop and polytechnic campus in 2015!. 2) It typically takes more than one professor to get an idea across, so while I am pretty sure most of my freshman “know” they should be careful about what they post online, they need practice and more discussions about “technological literacy” to truly become aware of what it means to have a professional online presence. Finally, 3) our undergraduate Professional Communication and Emerging Media program boasts 100% job placement rate for its grads (this means a job in the field within one year of graduation, not just a job doing anything) and I’d say 80% of those students are working with social media marketing, SEO, and content management, all of which commonly fall under “tech comm.” Have you reviewed those job ads lately? I’m not envious of my undergrads who have to know more and more software programs and be versatile enough to work in teams, both virtual and international.

    A final comment, I’m not really sure how the visual about reach connects to the other paragraphs. Can you elaborate?

  3. But you can’t work with what you don’t have, and most community colleges like mine don’t even offer a technical writing class much less a program. What we do have are a few tech-savvy, enthusiastic English and Communications faculty who incorporate social media assignments like having students find examples of poor writing, unclear messages, “bad” topics etc. and analyze and rewrite. And our CGS faculty all teach technological literacy; it’s required. I’m not familiar with the social media marketing field. However we have a Marketing/ Management instructor who used to be “Special Assistant to Governor Jeb Bush,” who’s quite an expert in it.

    And while I understand those jobs commonly fall under tech comm, it doesn’t mean that only tech comm faculty have those skills to teach it. Look at the Top 10 Famous Multi-Million Dollar Bloggers: http://addicted2success.com/news/the-top-10-famous-multi-million-dollar-bloggers/ and the 10 Richest Bloggers In the World 2015: http://www.infolited.com/10-richest-bloggers-in-the-world-2015/.

    Any one of them could be teaching rhetoric, technology, visual rhetoric, writing etc. in the limited terms of what social media marketers need to know to be successful.

    No, the visual doesn’t work. It works for reach, but not for my content. Hey, I’m brand new at this!

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