Article in:Register Studies: Online-First Articles
Stylistic variation in email
This study explores how email is partly shaped by writers’ positions within a corporate structure. This stylistic variation is measurable at scale and can be described by messages’ rhetorical organizations and orientations. The modeling was carried out on a subset of the Enron email corpus, which was processed using the dictionary-based tagger DocuScope. The results identify four stylistic variants (Trained/Technical Support, Decision-Making, Everyday Workplace Interaction, and Engaged Planning), each realizing distinctive combinations of features reflective of their communicative functions. In Trained/Technical Support emails, for example, constellations of words and phrases associated with informational production and facilitation are marshaled in fulfilling routine guidance-seeking and guidance-giving tasks. While writers’ positions motivate stylistic tendencies (e.g., members of upper-level management compose a majority of their messages in the Decision-Making style), all writers avail themselves of a variety of styles, depending on audience and purpose, suggesting that learners might benefit from developing adaptable communicative repertoires.
Keywords: professional communication, computational rhetoric, corpus analysis, computer-mediated communication
- 2.1The email corpus
- 2.3Discriminant analysis
- 3.1Overview of stylistic variation
- 3.2Trained/Technical Support (Style 1)
- 3.3Decision-Making (Style 2)
- 3.4Everyday Workplace Interaction (Style 3)
- 3.5Engaged Planning (Style 4)
- 4.Discussion and conclusion
Published online: 23 December 2021
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