When would writers use multimodal composition?

When would writers use multimodal composition?

In our study, we learned that multimodal composition means thinking about ways to use images, sounds, video and other means to deliver messages most effectively.

When do we use multimodal composition?

Most people are already composing multimodally. In fact, most of us are doing it all the time: when we text, when we share photos or videos, when we ❤️ somebody else’s photos or videos.

But ❤️ isn’t always effective. Usually it doesn’t work in a résumé, a business letter, or a research paper. So, given the range of multimodal choices available: when might writers use them?

Abby’s lab report (includes chemical molecules!)

Abby’s scientific research poster (includes graphs and photographs)

Kaitlin’s essay (includes graphics)

Julia’s capstone e-portfolio

How should we use multimodal composition?

There are some guidelines writers can use for multimodal composition. First, who is the audience and what is the composing situation? For instance, a photograph of you and your friends at the pool might seem out of place when writing to a prospective employer, but might be perfect for your followers on Instagram.

Sometimes the situation isn’t so clear. A popular meme might be the best way to make a point in a classroom presentation, or it might not.

Sophie explains the usefulness of Prezi for persuading an audience:

I think it’s [Prezi’s] really fun, but it looks so visually appealing and for a class where you’re trying to persuade people of something, that’s half the battle is just getting them to look at what you’re trying to say. So, yeah, there hasn’t really been that much writing necessarily, that’s gone into that class, it’s more just been—well actually, we’re one of the first groups to go. The presentations span over like the course of a month, and we’re the first day, so we haven’t had that much time to prepare, but it’s been really interesting and I think that the Prezi definitely is going to add something… We had this one map that we’re showing and then we want to show another map next to it and, rather than clicking on the next slide, we just zoom out, and you can see both maps next to each other. Which, when you’re watching something, it’s just much more visually appealing. Not to say that PowerPoint doesn’t get the job done, because it does if you just want words on a screen, it’s more than okay.


You can also read more of what Sophie says about it here

What limitations are there to multimodal composition?

Writers should be sure to

  • Avoid using multimodal elements as decoration
  • Clarify the relationship between multimodal elements and the message the piece tries to deliver
  • Consider how multimodal elements can deliver substance.

Click here to read about how Lauren decides to use multimodal elements:

It’s cool because I can express myself in a medium other than words, but I can still express the same ideas that I’m writing about. I mean, I’m like—for my SAC [Screen Arts and Culture] 290 class, we are doing black and white 16mm silent film, so it’s really cool cause we had like somebody playing chess—two guys playing chess—and it looked really, really gorgeous. It was like, ‘I could write about this, but it’s so much cooler to see it in this medium,’ and the way I choose to cut the angles, and where I’m cutting for continuity, and stuff like that, that is kind of like writing in itself.


FOR INSTRUCTORS: Teachers who want multimodal composition need to invite it into their classrooms and assignments. For instance, specifying MLA or APA format and 12-point type, double-spaced does not encourage students to include maps, tables, graphs, or photos that could improve the text.

Multimodal composition means thinking about using a variety of tools to deliver messages effectively to an intended audience.