Building a rhetoric community

            Online communities are dependent on effective communication; each person or member of a community and the community as a whole need to understand the rhetoric that is appropriate for that community if they are to successfully connect with each other (Burke et al, 2007). Technology and its rapid growth have introduced a new online rhetorical community – the blog. This paper will discuss the role of rhetoric in building a blog community.

            The starting point for blogging is difficult to ascertain but research determines it was first named by Barger in 1997 as ‘weblog’ (Safire, 2002). The first people to blog were more likely to be computer nerds and experts who would have spent most of their time on computers and thus initiated a new means of communicating with each other; as time has progressed however, more and more everyday people are joining blog communities mainly as a means of relating to others with a common interest and having the opportunity of presenting their personal views.

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            The rhetoric for successful blogging must account for continual self-disclosure and the continual development of the community; the rhetoric of blogging cultivates the means for individuals less likely or unable to communicate in face-to-face situations, and to articulate their own distinctive viewpoints on new and old issues. This new found rhetoric will help the individual to find a new understanding of the self and increase their confidence and ability to use and further develop that rhetoric, which in turn helps to build the community as a whole.

            The first rhetoric by any new blogger to an online community must be appropriate to introduce their self in a way that is acceptable and initiate response from the community; the second is to ask questions or make requests that again obtain response and action. Burke et al (2007) claim that introductions to online communities need to indicate authority and allegiance, while requests need to be precise in order to make understanding as easy as possible for other members.

The rhetoric of online introductions use vocabulary relevant to the community, outline personal knowledge, and expertise of the community, thus illustrating the newcomer’s legitimacy for entry to the community (Burke et al, 2007). First person singular pronouns help to connect the newcomer with the group and help to show exposure or disclosure, while first person plural pronouns show identity with and team spirit for the community. If a newcomer uses second person pronouns however, they distance themselves from the community and are less likely not to receive a response, indicating non-acceptance to the community (Burke et al, 2007).

            The different rhetoric used in requests and that used in questions that are more direct also influences the community in whether they respond or not (Burke et al, 2007). In face-to-face discourse it is polite requests that are more likely to gain response and thus objectives met; in online discourse however, it is the direct questions that gain response from the community (Burke et al. 2007)

            Just as a particular rhetoric is needed for a person to gain entry into a particular community or group within the ‘real world’, so too is appropriate rhetoric a requisite for acceptance into a blog community in the ‘virtual world’. It is the rhetoric, its use and its expansion that in turn helps to build the blog communities even further.


Burke, M., Joyce, E., Kim, T. Anand, V. & Kraut, R. (2007) Introductions and requests: rhetorical strategies that elicit response in online communities, In Steinfeld et al (eds) Communities and Technologies. Proceedings of the third communities and technologies conference, Michigan state University. pp. 21-39. Retrieved 15 July, 2010 from

Safire, W. (2002). Blog: do a million hits make a word? New York Times, July 28, p.17.

Rerieved 15 July, 20101 from,%202002,%20Safire&st=cse



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