In “Genre as a Social Action”, Carolyn Miller explains the importance of genre in a rhetorical piece as a form of persuasion. She states that “a rhetorical sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish”. Rhetoric, as she describes, leans towards provoking the audience into action or discourse. This is because the strong emotion that rhetoric creates is more impactful for a reader than the formal qualities that it carries. Rather than categorizing rhetoric as through its structure, the principle it tries to promote is more apt.
According to Miller, the reactions that emerge after a piece is delivered can be predicted. Her argument for this is that “’the existence of the recurrent provides insight into the human condition’ … Recurrence is implied by our understanding of situations as somehow ‘comparable’, ‘similar’, or ‘analogous’ to other situations”. By this she is stating that people in general are inclined towards a side based off previous experiences. When a specific topic is presented in the news or if a topic is presented in a colored manner, people have been seen to react predictably because of their predisposition. This is “because human action is based on and guided by meaning, not by material causes, at the center of action is a process of interpretation”. Miller’s point is that people are most invoked by the message that an author imbues on the audience. The “material causes” or composition qualities are insufficient in defining a piece as they aren’t the focal point.
A writer can pen a strong and manipulative piece aimed at the right audience by studying the disposition of the public. This can be seen by looking at past reactions as well as gauging the current public mood after receiving news. It is important for a writer to effectively tailor the formal quantities of their piece to strongly display the message they want to impart.