Kerry Dirk said to, “think about genres as tools to help people get things done” (Dirk 252). Genres are rhetorical situations that are repeated, with each new response to the mentioned situation being based on past responses. As an example of different genres that are commonly used in day to day life, Dirk brought up how telling jokes, writing emails, and updating Facebook statuses are a variety of genres that we participate in. For these three things, predicting how they function rhetorically is not so hard because we know that a joke should make people laugh and that from a sent email we should receive a reply and finally that a Facebook status should encourage comments. And as Dirk puts it, “Possibly without even thinking about it, you were recognizing the rhetorical situation of your action and choosing to act in a manner that would result in the outcome you desired” (Dirk 253). It’s not as if a person would put just anything into a joke or in an email or on Facebook, we have filters learned from past experiences that guide us in the choices we make for certain genres. This is why it is said that genre is rhetorical, because “more than form matters here, as knowing what is appropriate in these situations obviously requires more rhetorical knowledge than does filling out a credit card form” (Dirk 253).


In short, Kerry Dirk gives a few good suggestions that are helpful when you have to write in a specific genre. She suggests as follows,

  • “First, determine what action you are trying to accomplish,” this helps you to determine what genre to use.
  • “Second, learn as much as you can about a situation for which you are writing. What is the purpose? Who is the audience? How much freedom do you have? How does the location affect the genre?”
  • “Third, research how others have responded to similar situations. Talk to people who have written what you are trying to write.”
  • “And finally, ask questions.”


According to Deborah Dean, “Today, genres represent all sorts of interactions (some textual and some not), are defined more by situation than form, are both dynamic and flexible, and are more an explanation of social interaction than a classification system” (Dean 9). So what I’m seeing is that, like rhetoric, the term ‘genre’ is a difficult one for people to define. However, we can see that in the previous quotation, those are some of the characteristics of genre. She also states that genre is social, this is because social situations bring about genres because we use them to act in specific situations. She says that genre is rhetorical, this is because “they allow users to choose among options to effectively accomplish their purposes in each particular situation” (Dean 13). And she claims that genres are dynamic, because genres change frequently and in their contexts create change as they are both rhetorical and social. Genres are historical, as that when they go through such changes, their development is dependent upon previous related genres.


Continuing on with Deborah Dean’s characteristics of genre, she says that genres are cultural, because of how important context is to a situation and that sometimes you won’t be able to understand da certain genre unless you know the context of the culture from which it came. She additionally claims that genres are situated, referring to the information of the immediate context. Finally, Dean states that genres are ideological because of all the above stated characteristics put together. She says, “Because genres are social, cultural, and situated, it should be no surprise that they are also ideological, that they represent ways of thinking about and valuing the world” (Dean 18). Such are the characteristics of genre.


Sources: Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres”

              Deborah Dean’s “Explaining Genre Theory”