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How to Write a Rhetorical Question

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  • 0:03 Rhetorical Questions
  • 0:43 Writing Rhetorical Questions
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
A rhetorical question can be a question without an answer, but writing good rhetorical questions can get your reader to react, think, or even persuade them to agree with your opinion. In this lesson, explore some of the many different ways to write a rhetorical question.

Rhetorical Questions

You are outside, and the weather is hot! You decide to go the beach to try and cool off, and you meet your friend. She says, ''It is hot today, isn't it?'' Of course it's hot! Why would your friend ask a question like that?

Your friend is asking a rhetorical question. In conversation, a rhetorical question is asked to make conversation, for emphasis or to make a point in your speech or discussion. Your friend is not usually expecting an answer. She knows it is hot and either wants you to agree with her, or she is making a point, but she is not truly expecting an answer. A rhetorical question is a question that is used for effect when an answer or reply is not expected.

Writing Rhetorical Questions

Writing Rhetorical Tag Questions

The easiest way to write a rhetorical question is by forming a question right after a statement to mean the opposite of what you said. These are called rhetorical tag questions:

  • The dinner was good, wasn't it? (The dinner was not good.)
  • The new government is doing well, isn't it? (The government is not doing well.)

Note: These questions can be tricky, though. Sometimes an answer is expected with a regular tag question. At the airport, security might ask, ''You are not carrying something for anyone else, are you?'' This is not a rhetorical tag question. In this case, you must answer the first statement, not the second.

Writing Obvious Rhetorical Questions

You can also write obvious rhetorical questions when everybody (or nobody) knows the answer. There are many rhetorical questions that have already been written and are used in daily and written speech, like:''What is the meaning of life?'' (No one knows the answer.) With some creativity, you can write humorous things, but remember your audience. You almost never use these types of questions in professional writing.

Let's look at some examples:

  • Is the sun hot? (Yes, it is very hot.)
  • Is the moon round? (Yes, it is very round.)
  • Is the ocean wet? (Yes, it is very wet.)
  • Are you kidding me? (The person you're speaking with knows you are not, but cannot or does not want to believe what you are saying.)
  • Will you go to the party on Saturday?

You can also respond to a question with a rhetorical question, such as, ''Do pigs fly?'' (No, they don't, so the answer is obviously no.) Another response could be, ''Do dogs bark?'' (Yes, they do, so the answer is obviously yes.)

Writing Rhetorical Questions to Make Your Reader React

Sometimes, you can write a rhetorical question to make your audience take action:

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