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Every genre has conventions which illustrate how writing techniques make each genre

unique. These characteristics serve as the footing for how a story will play out, from what

perspective it will be told, and the messages that will be found within the writing. The purpose of

this writing project is to analyze the genre conventions from an original piece of writing, and

through the use of different language styles, derive a new body of work. To do this, an

understanding of why authors use certain conventions is necessary. Upon scouring the internet

for articles that stood out, I discovered a story on CNN’s website that fit the direction I wanted to

pursue. “McConnell unveils bill to combat youth tobacco use by raising purchase age to 21” is

an online news article that details the results of a Senate floor vote regarding electronic nicotine

devices. While deciding how I would incorporate new genre conventions in my writing, I

decided to preserve the original rhetorical style of a newspaper article. To translate the article, I

changed only the subject matter of the article, which in turn changed the audience while keeping

the online newspaper format. The original piece, which was an informative column, now depicts

a satirical article that stylistically mirrors works found on The Onion.

I wanted to build my writing from a real news story because of the principle that satire is

based upon current world events and happenings. The unaltered article gave a brief account of

the restriction of tobacco devices, which are popular throughout today’s youth culture. I

concluded that I would translate this article because I am surrounded by teenagers and vapes

which gave me plenty of material to poke fun at. Once I committed to writing my translation

based on this article, I had to identify the characteristics of the article that would remain in my

updated article, and what I would choose to omit from the final draft. USC writing professor

Mike Bunn summarizes this process, saying that “it’s probably impossible (and definitely too

time consuming) to identify all of the choices the author made and all techniques an author used,
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so it’s important to prioritize while reading. Knowing what you’ll be writing yourself can help

you prioritize.”1 This quote highlights the importance of understanding writing conventions in

order to determine why some are incorporated into writing, and why others have no place in the

genre. Using this knowledge, I read the original article, noting the genre conventions of a normal

online newspaper article: short paragraphs, quotes, pictures, a headline, and a lead paragraph.

Because the translation would remain a newspaper article, all the aforementioned characteristics

would have to be included. In my translation, I included a bold title, an introduction paragraph

with a small summary, multiple quotes, related advertisements with accompanying pictures, and

varying paragraph lengths. But, it would stray from the original rhetorical genre because of the

content and delivery style of jokes.

Satirical pieces target an audience of people who read to be intellectually amused. I

understood that I would have to follow the genre conventions of satire in order for my satirical

piece to be accepted by the intended group. This is evident in Kerry Dirk’s “Navigating Genres”

article when he claims that “people do not label a particular story as a joke solely because of

formal features but rather because of their perception of the rhetorical action that is occurring.”2

This means that consumers of satire expect that specific conventions will be embedded in the

articles they read because they find those aspects most attractive. So before writing my new

article, I read multiple articles from the well known satirical media company The Onion to get a

better understanding of how the authors ensure their articles are humorous and well received by

readers. The genre conventions that are noticeably present in all of the articles are the use of

irony, exaggeration, and ridicule. I would go on to incorporate this into my translated story, as

Mike Bunn, “How to Read Like a Writer,” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing 2 (2011): Page
Kerry Dirk, “Navigating Genres,” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing 1 (2010): Page 253
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well as keeping a few pieces of information from the original article. I used false testimonies to

highlight the polarized opinions of young people who use vapes. I also kept multiple quotes

from Mitch McConnell because it gave the article a sense of authenticity, and I wanted my story

to be as authentic as a satirical news article could be.

My new story adopted elements from the original CNN piece but at the same time

completely takes a new course. First and foremost, the targeted audience is no longer those who

read to be intellectually enlightened. It is now directed at a younger demographic who enjoy

humorous and lighthearted articles. I felt that this article would stick out to many young people

because of the cultural relevance of electronic nicotine devices and because it makes fun of them

without being too crude. For the audience who reads this but is not looking to be entertained by

satire, the article incorporates real quotes from politicians, real statistics about teenage vaping, all

while covering a real issue plaguing the nation. And while it does use real quotes, I added fake

quotes from teenagers defined by extreme opinions to highlight the ignorance and stubbornness

of young people. There are aspects to this story that are evidently fictitious but were included to

strengthen the satirical elements of the story. All of these components were included to bolster

the formalities of satire and make the overall story more interesting to the reader.

Overall, this project has helped me to understand how the conventions of genre create

frameworks for specific types of writing. They are used to create proper fitting narratives and

ultimately dictate the category of writing to which every story belongs. During the process of

genre translation, I discovered that simple rhetorical devices can completely alter the intended

perception of written pieces. That being said, understanding the conventions of a story is

essential to being able to create a work in the same style. And in this case, the use of satirical
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elements transformed a simple news article into a mockery of society’s values, all through the

use of different writing practices.

Works Cited

Bunn, Mike. “How to Read Like a Writer.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing 2 (2011).

Dirk, Kerry. “Navigating Genres.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing 1 (2010).

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