Believe it or not, you use rhetorical questions daily. But, being able to harness them in the right way, will make your writing better than ever before!

What is a rhetorical question?

In contrast to a regular question, a rhetorical question is a literary technique used by writers to make a point, or for dramatic effect, as opposed to seeking an answer. Rhetorical questions are not typically replied to and instead are often sarcastic, or used to place emphasis on a point. However, they can also be used to control the responses the audience gives to them or be used as metaphors.

Why should you use them in your writing?


Rhetorical questions are not used that often. By using them you will add diversity and flair to your writing. What makes them so powerful is the fact they can explain or pinpoint something to the reader without explicitly saying or writing it. As a result of this added complexity, the reader is forced to engage, consider and hypothesize about what they have read. In turn, this creates dramatic effect, making your writing much more interesting to the reader. To get the most out of your rhetorical questions, make sure that when you read it over you get the effect you intended, whether that be revealing the unknown, making a point or subtly influencing the reader.

Where and when can they be used?


Rhetorical questions can be used in pretty much all types of writing. Let's consider some of the examples.


They can be used to reveal a character's perception of the world without explicitly saying it. See the example below:

"What has the world come to?"

Without directly saying that the character is upset by the state of the world, it forces the reader to piece this together themselves.


By using a rhetorical question with an intended answer, the speaker can engage the audience through a common experience.

Do you hate doing the dishes? Then, I've got a solution for you!


Sometimes you can answer a question with a rhetorical question if the answer to the first question is seemingly obvious.

"Does Nick like chocolate?", asked Craig.
"Is the Pope Catholic?"


Appropriate use of rhetorical question can be thought provoking, lead the reader to arrive at a conclusion on their own and potentially have greater impact on the reader.

If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

"The Merchant of Venice" - William Shakespeare

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To learn more about language techniques check out our articles on Similes and Quotation marks.

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