“How to Make an Email and See the World”

This picture book title merges my interests in early literacy and children’s literature with my work experience in the travel industry.

In my post from last week, I referenced my customer service experience and although I am aiming to generally direct this blog toward those with an interest in early literacy efforts (a.k.a. my “customer”), this week, since I am exploring the connection between an expertise to a particular genre, I am going to focus on the communication I used with my typical client at Madden Media. Madden Media is an innovative travel marketing company and as a former Client Service Coordinator, my job was to contact clients via email to request specific materials from them that our designers would need in order to create their ad, whether it be for print in a magazine or for an online banner ad.

It would seem when I write the word genre I mean children’s literature, but in this case, I am moving beyond that to the genre (or “construct” or “framework”) I used to communicate on behalf of Madden Media, which was daily email correspondence with advertisers, one of my discourse communities.

Gunther Kress writes in his chapter two of his book Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World that he treats “genre as that category which realizes the social relations of the participants involved in the text as interaction” (p. 41). Email was my genre since it was the best way to send a bulk of information to a given advertiser to read at his most opportune time. Within the email I would include specifications including what format the ad would run in (print or digital); the ad size and specifications of what to submit to me (word count, number and size of images, contact information, or a finished ready-to-print ad file); the due date for ad materials; how to submit materials to me (via email or mail or FTP site); how to contact me with any questions; and usually there was a link to view a visual of their past ad if applicable, or an example of the publication they will run in, and perhaps even a link to a visual of ad specifications for extra reference. The latter would be what Kress calls “mixed genres” (Kress, p. 52) because it includes both text and pictures. Kress used writing “for the representation of event structures, and images [are] used for the representations of displays of aspects of the world” (p. 49). This practice tends to multiple learning styles, which is anticipating potential customer needs.

By choosing an email format to send the specifications, email was my chosen genre. Amy Devitt writes in her article, “If a writer has chosen to write in a particular genre, then the writer has chosen a template, a situation and an appropriate reflection of that situation in sets of forms” (Devitt, p. 582). Before I send specs (specifications) to my clients, I would have a clear understanding of my goal and the product of which I am referring.

It is important to be able to meld my customer service skills by writing effective emails (my genre) to my advertising client (a discourse community) in regards to their business of placing an ad (the subject matter) within a publication. I would send basically the same predictable specs to each advertiser, but adjust the personalized details for each email. Charles Bazerman wrote that “…Schutz recognized the need for orderliness for humans to operate” (Bazerman, p. 20). By using email signatures as a template, that created an orderliness that I could easily handle in order to complete my job most efficiently and give a consistent message to all advertisers equally.

As a writer, it’s crucial to know your audience (the discourse community) and of course what the topic is about and then wisely select the best mode to reach your audience to meet maximum potential. To relate back to early literacy, I could write a grant proposal (my genre) in a very specific format to an organization (my audience) that gives money to nonprofit organization in regards to funding for early childhood literacy efforts (my topic). By linking these three integral pieces, I can reach my ideal audience in the best way. Just like making an apple pie, I need the best ingredients and I will be successful.

Apple Pie Ingredients
As with making an apple pie, you need just the right ingredients for delicious communication: genre, discourse community, and subject matter.


Works Cited

Bazerman, C. (2002). The rhetoric and ideology of genre: Strategies for stability and change. New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc.

Devitt, A. (1993). Generalizing about genre: New conceptions of an old concept. College composition and communication, 44( 4), 573–586. 

Kress, G. (2004). Visual rhetoric in a digital world: A critical sourcebook. Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University.

12 thoughts on ““How to Make an Email and See the World””

  1. Hi Dawn,

    I can’t think of a more appropriate word to describe your posts except “delightful”. It is so visually delightful 🙂

    I learn something every time I take a look. Like on this one (or maybe you’ve had them on other posts and I just happen to miss them…quite possible too, the way my days go sometimes!), how you’ve included a link to your previous post, so internally linking information. I know that I’ve read that it is helpful to do that, but seeing it within this context actually drives home the point. That “aha” brain click happens! Nicely done! I become more aware of how I can incorporate that feature in my format next time.

    Also, terrific images. Adds so much interest to what is typically text-dense. I know we also share a Usability (549) class, so you have some really nice domain overlap going on here!

    Thanks for sharing these visual “lessons” through your posts. They add much to my learning.



    1. Hi, Tessa! Thank you and it’s nice to see you in both classes!

      This was the first time I included a link to a previous post, but I suggested a fellow classmate do it and decided to do it for me, too! I will go back and edit my second post for that, too.



  2. Hi Dawn:

    Thank you for the blog. Like you, I’ve worked for, with, and as a professional in e-mail marketing environments, so an understanding of what you wrote of came easy for me. I also like to travel, so it must be great to combine marketing with travelling. How fun!

    I do have some questions for you, though, and I hope we can chat about some future possibilities that you may have for this post. Since your blog’s theme has thus far been about children’s literature, and because you would like to incorporate travel into this most current blog, I’m wondering if there’s a way we could do that more comprehensively. For example, you started out with a great picture that, yes, combines children’s literature with travelling. But as I started to read your blog, you directly stated you were going to take a different path. You wrote, “.It would seem when I write the word genre I mean children’s literature, but in this case, I am moving beyond that to the genre (or “construct” or “framework”) I used to communicate on behalf of Madden Media, which was daily email correspondence with advertisers, one of my discourse communities..” With that, your children’s literature theme was never exercised. And what was otherwise an effective use of the image for “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World” held little relevance.(I also never thought about e-mail as a “genre.” I’ve always accepted e-mail as a mode of communication, but not a style of communication.)

    I’m wondering if you could stick to your passion (and theme) that is children’s literature more closely by researching ways that travel is illustrated and written about in children’s literature, and then reporting your research findings. For example, what journey did Clifford the Big Red Dog take recently? Did you know that Clifford, himself, travelled around the country via a museum tour?! Or how about the biggest trip of all–the one to Oz?! Think of Dorothy’s travels as she navigates the yellow brick road. Could we Google “Travel Books for Children”? I think you’ll find vibrant, relevant stories!

    I think by including more examples of travel in children’s literature you keep the meaning of your initial picture intact. Plus, you’ll find so many more images to use. What do you think?


    1. Thank you for your comments, Denise! I appreciate you’re willingness to talk with me about this because in all honesty, I really wanted to keep along the lines of what I set out to do and stick with the genre of children’s literature, however, after this weeks’ readings, I thought that I needed to delve into the more business-side of communications and the newer definition of genre that we learned about. I got confused and thought I needed to complicate it in order to prove I understood what we just learned. So, you think I should go back to an early literacy-themed post? I was just trying to link it to my employment with travel advertisers which was the easiest thing due to the fact that I have the most written communication experience from there.

      I love your idea about more travel books! Do you think it’s too much of a stretch to try to meld children’s literacy with email? And is it too simple or obvious to select children’s literature as a genre? I guess children’s literature about traveling could be another genre? I’m getting so confused! Or, I could just make the whole thing about a proposal as my genre, which I suggested at the end of my post. But I’d love to make this a great post. 🙂 Thanks for your constructive feedback!!



      1. Hi Dawn:

        It’s up to you, but my vote is, yes, go back to the children’s literature theme. Do remember that part of what we studied this week was the possibility of mixing genres. We looked at several pieces that do, in fact, mix genres, and you and could definitely extract some good quotes on mixing genres from our authors. The more and more I think about it, why not mix the genre of travel writing with the genre of children’s literature?

        If you want to continue with an e-mail marking aspect, research “marketing to children.” You might be able to find how e-mailers write for children (or their parents, anyway). Check out pbskids.org. It’s a sister site to pbs.org, but it’s targeted to kids and it goes way beyond just listing children’s TV shows. They have all sorts of exercises. There’s also kidsemail.org, which encourages parents to get their kids on an e-mail system, but safely.

        And, yes, you could always write about proposal writing with some sort of children’s literature/fundraising message. I think that’s a great idea!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dawn.

    Yummy images, it reminds me of fall and lunch, two delightful things. I kept thinking about your post in two different ways: module 3 and then module 4. Your ideas on how emails look and the messages they convey are based on the expectations of the people we are writing to, or the customer, are totally spot on. Rarely do I see an email that I cannot scan through quick and find all the important information that I need. Similarly, I when I compose an email, the same general format is used.

    While thinking about module 4, I think both of us will be affected by the changes that Barbara Fagan-Smith discusses with, “The changing Role of the Communication Professional.” “Communication professionals also need to cast our eyes forward to how future generations will be using technology” (IABC..com). How do you feel that you will shift from the youth finding email, “too slow”? Kids! I often tell them about the card catalog system, that gets a laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Dawn,

    I think you did a great job summing up the genre and discourse community for your particular situation at Madden Media. I especially like that you state you make sure you have a clear understand of your goal before sending specifications. I think so many people have a habit of shooting off emails without thinking through what they hope to accomplish. Because we can send emails so easily, we tend to forget to plan out what we want to say in order to get the results we want. I often have to write emails to customers or staff with very specific instructions or else I know I won’t get the answers that I need in return. I probably put too much thought and planning into my emails before they go out, but I’d rather have it done correctly the first time then to have to respond to questions because I didn’t clearly explain something or go back to my audience and bother them again with another email because I forgot something.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dawn,

    First of all, I find myself very impressed with your writing skill. I think you have a unique gift of presenting your words very clearly. I am humbled to read what you write because it puts into sharp contrast where I fall short, so thank you so much.

    I think your post is a superb example of the genre question. I love how you say, ” Email was my genre since it was the best way to send a bulk of information to a given advertiser to read at his most opportune time.” This illustrate perfectly what the readings have been for the past module. People need to stop looking at genre as the typical classifications we had to learn when we were in elementary level schooling. I think you show perfectly that email is its own genre and it has its purposes and that those purposes are valid. I also think it shows how nothing in communication should be taken lightly.

    Whenever we are speaking we need to understand our audience and it is no different when writing even something as everyday as an email. I think I get too casual sometimes when I send my emails on my school account, and although I am pretty good friends with my bosses I have to admit my compliance with the rules of the email genre suffer.

    I also think we need to remember that wonderful word “dynamic”. It is the panacea to any form of change. In order to meet change head on, we must be dynamic in turn and adapt to what is presented. This was a fantastic post and I really appreciate your comments. Thank you



  6. Dawn,

    I love how your images link with one another; the apple pie theme is really cute and attention getting. I also think you could do a great job linking travel and children’s literature. Dr. Suess alone has many travels and you can even go beyond that with others that were mentioned above. I like how you talk about e-mailing as a genre because it is a different way of writing than any other way. There’s something that sets it apart from other styles. It’s less formal than an actual letter, yet more formal than a memo or text.

    My only suggestion would be, in this section…”To relate back to early literacy, I could write a grant proposal (my genre) in a very specific format to an organization (my audience) that gives money to nonprofit organization in regards to funding for early childhood literacy efforts (my topic).” You might think of writing it differently, perhaps in the form of a recipe that would tie in the apple pie theme even better.



  7. Dawn,

    I read your blog and comments on it. You are bringing in new ideas, about business writing and also writing for children’s books. I loved the pictures on travel and apple pie, and they way you start and end with them to book-end with interesting images. It would be good to tie them in to the writing them more and have a more unified them through the post. It is complex to tie in new ideas and I think you can do it if you keep both threads strong all the way through; if not, you might have to choose. I am curious about the story first pictured as well; you entice us with it but it gets a bit left behind.
    Your writing is creative and sounds professional but conversational; this is a nice mix. Looking forward to reading more.


  8. Hi Dawn,

    This post does a fantastic job breaking down and explaining genre. The paragraph on sending specifications to clients, and deciding which genre to use, based on the audience and information, was particularly helpful! I have two thoughts on this post. The first is that it’s a really engaging post as it stands, but if you wanted to really involve your original discourse community, you could provide examples that they can relate to throughout the post. For example, when you give the example I cited above, you could speak directly to the early literacy community with something like: For those of us involved in early literacy, this might look like….

    My other thought is that your apple pie analogy is so awesome that I hope you take it to the next step: with all the right ingredients your pie won’t be perfect, unless you chose the right genre (a pie dish! as apposed to a pot or a frying pan).




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