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Conclusions

What Mary Anne went through in preparing her documents—a report and a memo—is what should happen whenever a professional faces a rhetorical problem. It is important to remember that most rhetorical problems grow out of technical problems and that the whole problem-solving process takes a combination of technical knowledge and expertise (the ability to solve the technical problem) and knowledge and expertise in communication (the ability to solve the rhetorical problem). Professionals can solve problems not only with the help of what they know about their various fields—computers, engineering, social work, geology, or some other field—but also with the help of what they know about writing and speaking.

The discussion of Mary Anne Cox's situation demonstrates that rhetorical problem solving is a specifically human activity requiring effective communication. To do this, writers and speakers must think systematically, though not necessarily linearly, touching the four essential bases of purpose, audience, context, and ethical stance. As we pointed out in Chapter 1, problems that professionals face cannot really be called problems unless there are people who feel the need of and will benefit from a solution. Thus, the malfunction of ENCONTRO at the capitol building in Hartford is not just some abstract, theoretical breakdown to be corrected by simple tinkerings and adjustments in the technology. Because people were made uncomfortable and were inconvenienced, the problem takes on the necessary human dimension. And because people—both at Outerware and at the capitol building—were directly responsible for the technological mishap, the problem demonstrates a greater level of human involvement.


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