Discourse Conventions

Discourse conventions are the norms guiding communication in specific communities. They span from written and spoken rules to visual cues, rooted in each community's shared experiences, values, and interests. Grasping these conventions helps you communicate effectively in varied settings.

What are Discourse Conventions?

The term “Discourse Convention” refers to the distinctive ways members of a discourse community speak, write, and visually communicate with one another.

Discourse conventions encompass the shared expectations among writers, readers, speakers, and listeners within a specific discourse community regarding how communication, both verbal and nonverbal, should be structured and presented. These conventions include rules, established templates, organizational patterns, styles, methodologies, and even nonverbal mannerisms such as gestures, facial expressions, and visual representations. Discourse conventions may pertain to a range of linguistic and rhetorical elements, including diction, grammar, mechanics, perspective, point of view, sentence structure, tone, voice, persona. They are deeply rooted in the community’s traditions of creating and interpreting meaning, as encapsulated in its archive and canon.

For instance, the manner in which a scientist presents data using visual aids in a seminar, or how an attorney maintains a formal demeanor in court, reflects the discourse conventions of their respective communities. Through these conventions, members of a discourse community are able to effectively engage in meaningful exchanges, nurturing a common understanding and facilitating the progression of shared knowledge and objectives.

Discourse conventions reflect the values, actions, and research methods of a discourse community. Take, for instance, a discourse community centered around positivist principles in scientific inquiry. Within such a community, discourse conventions would likely prioritize empirical evidence, objective language, and precise, quantifiable data. The meticulous structuring of arguments, rigorous peer-review processes, and the adherence to established scientific methodologies reflect the community’s collective belief in an orderly, comprehensible universe governed by discernible laws.

The discourse conventions, in this case, embody the community’s valuing of empirical rigor, objective analysis, and collaborative scrutiny. Through these conventions, members of the discourse community engage in a structured dialogue aimed at uncovering the objective truths about the natural world, thus advancing the collective understanding within their field and contributing to the broader scientific discourse.

Related Concepts: Audience Awareness; Rhetorical Analysis


Why Do Discourse Conventions Matter?

Discourse conventions play a crucial role in ensuring effective communication between writers and readers: they provide a shared framework for the presentation and organization of ideas, which aids clarity communication.


Swales, J. (2017). The Concept of Discourse Community by John M. Swales. Composition Forum, 37. https://compositionforum.com/issue/37/swales-retrospective.php

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