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Rhetorical Questions in Essays: 5 Things you should Know

Rhetorical Questions in Essays

Rhetorical questions can be useful in writing. So, why shouldn’t you use rhetorical questions in essays?

In this article, I outline 5 key reasons that explain the problem with rhetorical questions in essays.

Despite the value of rhetorical questions for engaging audiences, they mean trouble in your university papers. Teachers tend to hate them.

There are endless debates among students as to why or why not to use rhetorical questions. But, I’m here to tell you that – despite your (and my) protestations – the jury’s in. Many, many teachers hate rhetorical questions.

You’re therefore not doing yourself any favors in using them in your essays.

Rhetorical Question Examples

A rhetorical question is a type of metacommentary . It is a question whose purpose is to add creative flair to your writing. It is a way of adding style to your essay.

Rhetorical questions usually either have obvious answers, or no answers, or do not require an answer . Here are some examples:

  • Are you seriously wearing that?
  • Do you think I’m that gullible?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What would the walls say if they could speak?

I understand why people like to use rhetorical questions in introductions . You probably enjoy writing. You probably find rhetorical questions engaging, and you want to draw your marker in, engage them, and wow them with your knowledge.

1. Rhetorical Questions in Academic Writing: They Don’t belong.

Rhetorical questions are awesome … for blogs, diaries, and creative writing. They engage the audience and ask them to predict answers.

But, sorry, they suck for essays. Academic writing is not supposed to be creative writing .

Here’s the difference between academic writing and creative writing:

  • Supposed to be read for enjoyment first and foremost.
  • Can be flamboyant, extravagant, and creative.
  • Can leave the reader in suspense.
  • Can involve twists, turns, and surprises.
  • Can be in the third or first person.
  • Readers of creative writing read texts from beginning to end – without spoilers.

Rhetorical questions are designed to create a sense of suspense and flair. They, therefore, belong as a rhetorical device within creative writing genres.

Now, let’s look at academic writing:

  • Supposed to be read for information and analysis of real-life ideas.
  • Focused on fact-based information.
  • Clearly structured and orderly.
  • Usually written in the third person language only.
  • Readers of academic writing scan the texts for answers, not questions.

Academic writing should never, ever leave the reader in suspense. Therefore, rhetorical questions have no place in academic writing.

Academic writing should be in the third person – and rhetorical questions are not quite in the third person. The rhetorical question appears as if you are talking directly to the reader. It is almost like writing in the first person – an obvious fatal error in the academic writing genre.

Your marker will be reading your work looking for answers , not questions. They will be rushed, have many papers to mark, and have a lot of work to do. They don’t want to be entertained. They want answers.

Therefore, academic writing needs to be straight to the point, never leave your reader unsure or uncertain, and always signpost key ideas in advance.

Here’s an analogy:

  • When you came onto this post, you probably did not read everything from start to end. You probably read each sub-heading first, then came back to the top and started reading again. You weren’t interested in suspense or style. You wanted to find something out quickly and easily. I’m not saying this article you’re reading is ‘academic writing’ (it isn’t). But, what I am saying is that this text – like your essay – is designed to efficiently provide information first and foremost. I’m not telling you a story. You, like your teacher, are here for answers to a question. You are not here for a suspenseful story. Therefore, rhetorical questions don’t fit here.

I’ll repeat: rhetorical questions just don’t fit within academic writing genres.

2. Rhetorical Questions can come across as Passive

It’s not your place to ask a question. It’s your place to show your command of the content. Rhetorical questions are by definition passive: they ask of your reader to do the thinking, reflecting, and questioning for you.

Questions of any kind tend to give away a sense that you’re not quite sure of yourself. Imagine if the five points for this blog post were:

  • Are they unprofessional?
  • Are they passive?
  • Are they seen as padding?
  • Are they cliché?
  • Do teachers hate them?

If the sub-headings of this post were in question format, you’d probably – rightly – return straight back to google and look for the next piece of advice on the topic. That’s because questions don’t assist your reader. Instead, they demand something from your reader .

Questions – rhetorical or otherwise – a position you as passive, unsure of yourself, and skirting around the point. So, avoid them.

3. Rhetorical Questions are seen as Padding

When a teacher reads a rhetorical question, they’re likely to think that the sentence was inserted to fill a word count more than anything else.


Rhetorical questions have a tendency to be written by students who are struggling to come to terms with an essay question. They’re well below word count and need to find an extra 15, 20, or 30 words here and there to hit that much-needed word count.

In order to do this, they fill space with rhetorical questions.

It’s a bit like going into an interview for a job. The interviewer asks you a really tough question and you need a moment to think up an answer. You pause briefly and mull over the question. You say it out loud to yourself again, and again, and again.

You do this for every question you ask. You end up answering every question they ask you with that same question, and then a brief pause.

Sure, you might come up with a good answer to your rhetorical question later on, but in the meantime, you have given the impression that you just don’t quite have command over your topic.

4. Rhetorical Questions are hard to get right

As a literary device, the rhetorical question is pretty difficult to execute well. In other words, only the best can get away with it.

The vast majority of the time, the rhetorical question falls on deaf ears. Teachers scoff, roll their eyes, and sigh just a little every time an essay begins with a rhetorical question.

The rhetorical question feels … a little ‘middle school’ – cliché writing by someone who hasn’t quite got a handle on things.

Let your knowledge of the content win you marks, not your creative flair. If your rhetorical question isn’t as good as you think it is, your marks are going to drop – big time.

5. Teachers Hate Rhetorical Questions in Essays

This one supplants all other reasons.

The fact is that there are enough teachers out there who hate rhetorical questions in essays that using them is a very risky move.

Believe me, I’ve spent enough time in faculty lounges to tell you this with quite some confidence. My opinion here doesn’t matter. The sheer amount of teachers who can’t stand rhetorical questions in essays rule them out entirely.

Whether I (or you) like it or not, rhetorical questions will more than likely lose you marks in your paper.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Some (possible) Exceptions

Personally, I would say don’t use rhetorical questions in academic writing – ever.

But, I’ll offer a few suggestions of when you might just get away with it if you really want to use a rhetorical question:

  • As an essay title. I would suggest that most people who like rhetorical questions embrace them because they are there to ‘draw in the reader’ or get them on your side. I get that. I really do. So, I’d recommend that if you really want to include a rhetorical question to draw in the reader, use it as the essay title. Keep the actual essay itself to the genre style that your marker will expect: straight up the line, professional and informative text.

“97 percent of scientists argue climate change is real. Such compelling weight of scientific consensus places the 3 percent of scientists who dissent outside of the scientific mainstream.”

The takeaway point here is, if I haven’t convinced you not to use rhetorical questions in essays, I’d suggest that you please check with your teacher on their expectations before submission.

Don’t shoot the messenger. Have I said that enough times in this post?

I didn’t set the rules, but I sure as hell know what they are. And one big, shiny rule that is repeated over and again in faculty lounges is this: Don’t Use Rhetorical Questions in Essays . They are risky, appear out of place, and are despised by a good proportion of current university teachers.

To sum up, here are my top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t use rhetorical questions in your essays:


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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  • How to write a rhetorical analysis | Key concepts & examples

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples

Published on August 28, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay  that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience.

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Table of contents

Key concepts in rhetoric, analyzing the text, introducing your rhetorical analysis, the body: doing the analysis, concluding a rhetorical analysis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about rhetorical analysis.

Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and writing, is a subject that trains you to look at texts, arguments and speeches in terms of how they are designed to persuade the audience. This section introduces a few of the key concepts of this field.

Appeals: Logos, ethos, pathos

Appeals are how the author convinces their audience. Three central appeals are discussed in rhetoric, established by the philosopher Aristotle and sometimes called the rhetorical triangle: logos, ethos, and pathos.

Logos , or the logical appeal, refers to the use of reasoned argument to persuade. This is the dominant approach in academic writing , where arguments are built up using reasoning and evidence.

Ethos , or the ethical appeal, involves the author presenting themselves as an authority on their subject. For example, someone making a moral argument might highlight their own morally admirable behavior; someone speaking about a technical subject might present themselves as an expert by mentioning their qualifications.

Pathos , or the pathetic appeal, evokes the audience’s emotions. This might involve speaking in a passionate way, employing vivid imagery, or trying to provoke anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response in the audience.

These three appeals are all treated as integral parts of rhetoric, and a given author may combine all three of them to convince their audience.

Text and context

In rhetoric, a text is not necessarily a piece of writing (though it may be this). A text is whatever piece of communication you are analyzing. This could be, for example, a speech, an advertisement, or a satirical image.

In these cases, your analysis would focus on more than just language—you might look at visual or sonic elements of the text too.

The context is everything surrounding the text: Who is the author (or speaker, designer, etc.)? Who is their (intended or actual) audience? When and where was the text produced, and for what purpose?

Looking at the context can help to inform your rhetorical analysis. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has universal power, but the context of the civil rights movement is an important part of understanding why.

Claims, supports, and warrants

A piece of rhetoric is always making some sort of argument, whether it’s a very clearly defined and logical one (e.g. in a philosophy essay) or one that the reader has to infer (e.g. in a satirical article). These arguments are built up with claims, supports, and warrants.

A claim is the fact or idea the author wants to convince the reader of. An argument might center on a single claim, or be built up out of many. Claims are usually explicitly stated, but they may also just be implied in some kinds of text.

The author uses supports to back up each claim they make. These might range from hard evidence to emotional appeals—anything that is used to convince the reader to accept a claim.

The warrant is the logic or assumption that connects a support with a claim. Outside of quite formal argumentation, the warrant is often unstated—the author assumes their audience will understand the connection without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the implicit warrant in these cases.

For example, look at the following statement:

We can see a claim and a support here, but the warrant is implicit. Here, the warrant is the assumption that more likeable candidates would have inspired greater turnout. We might be more or less convinced by the argument depending on whether we think this is a fair assumption.

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Rhetorical analysis isn’t a matter of choosing concepts in advance and applying them to a text. Instead, it starts with looking at the text in detail and asking the appropriate questions about how it works:

  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • Do they focus closely on their key claims, or do they discuss various topics?
  • What tone do they take—angry or sympathetic? Personal or authoritative? Formal or informal?
  • Who seems to be the intended audience? Is this audience likely to be successfully reached and convinced?
  • What kinds of evidence are presented?

By asking these questions, you’ll discover the various rhetorical devices the text uses. Don’t feel that you have to cram in every rhetorical term you know—focus on those that are most important to the text.

The following sections show how to write the different parts of a rhetorical analysis.

Like all essays, a rhetorical analysis begins with an introduction . The introduction tells readers what text you’ll be discussing, provides relevant background information, and presents your thesis statement .

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how an introduction works.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of oratory in American history. Delivered in 1963 to thousands of civil rights activists outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech has come to symbolize the spirit of the civil rights movement and even to function as a major part of the American national myth. This rhetorical analysis argues that King’s assumption of the prophetic voice, amplified by the historic size of his audience, creates a powerful sense of ethos that has retained its inspirational power over the years.

The body of your rhetorical analysis is where you’ll tackle the text directly. It’s often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay.

Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.

Hover over the example to explore how a typical body paragraph is constructed.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis wraps up the essay by restating the main argument and showing how it has been developed by your analysis. It may also try to link the text, and your analysis of it, with broader concerns.

Explore the example below to get a sense of the conclusion.

It is clear from this analysis that the effectiveness of King’s rhetoric stems less from the pathetic appeal of his utopian “dream” than it does from the ethos he carefully constructs to give force to his statements. By framing contemporary upheavals as part of a prophecy whose fulfillment will result in the better future he imagines, King ensures not only the effectiveness of his words in the moment but their continuing resonance today. Even if we have not yet achieved King’s dream, we cannot deny the role his words played in setting us on the path toward it.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

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How to Use Rhetorical Questions in Essay Writing Effectively

Adela B.

Table of contents

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?

These lines are from William Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, wherein he uses consecutive rhetorical questions to evoke a sense of human empathy. This literary technique certainly worked here because the speech manages to move us and pushes us to think.

Writers have been incorporating rhetorical questions together for centuries. So, why not take inspiration and include it in your college essays, too?

A rhetorical question is asked more to create an impact or make a statement rather than get an answer. When used effectively, it is a powerful literary device that can add immense value to your writing.

How do you use rhetorical questions in an essay?

Thinking of using rhetorical questions? Start thinking about what you want your reader to take away from it. Craft it as a statement and then convert it into a rhetorical question. Make sure you use rhetorical questions in context to the more significant point you are trying to make.

When Should You Write Rhetorical Questions in Your Essay?

Are you wondering when you can use rhetorical questions? Here are four ways to tactfully use them to elevate your writing and make your essays more thought-provoking.

#1. Hook Readers

We all know how important it is to start your essay with an interesting essay hook that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps them interested. Do you know what would make great essay hooks? Rhetorical questions.

When you begin with a rhetorical question, you make the reader reflect and indicate where you are headed with the essay. Instead of starting your essay with a dull, bland statement, posing a question to make a point is a lot more striking.

How you can use rhetorical questions as essay hooks

Example: What is the world without art?

Starting your essay on art with this question is a clear indication of the angle you are taking. This question does not seek an answer because it aims to make readers feel that the world would be dreary without art.

#2. Evoke Emotions

Your writing is considered genuinely effective when you trigger an emotional response and strike a chord with the reader.

Whether it’s evoking feelings of joy, sadness, rage, hope, or disgust, rhetorical questions can stir the emotional appeal you are going for. They do the work of subtly influencing readers to feel what you are feeling.

So, if you want readers to nod with the agreement, using rhetorical questions to garner that response is a good idea, which is why they are commonly used in persuasive essays.

Example: Doesn’t everyone have the right to be free?

What comes to your mind when you are met with this question? The obvious answer is – yes! This is a fine way to instill compassion and consideration among people.

#3. Emphasize a Point

Making a statement and following it up with a rhetorical question is a smart way to emphasize it and drive the message home. It can be a disturbing statistic, a well-known fact, or even an argument you are presenting, but when you choose to end it with a question, it tends to draw more emphasis and makes the reader sit up and listen.

Sometimes, rather than saying it as a statement, inserting a question leaves a more significant impact.

Example: Between 700 and 800 racehorses are injured and die yearly, with a national average of about two breakdowns for every 1,000 starts. How many will more horses be killed in the name of entertainment?

The question inserted after presenting such a startling statistic is more to express frustration and make the reader realize the gravity of the situation.

#4. Make a Smooth Transition

One of the critical elements while writing an essay is the ability to make smooth transitions from one point or section to another and, of course, use the right transition words in your essay . The essay needs to flow logically while staying within the topic. This is a tricky skill, and few get it right.

Using rhetorical questions is one way to connect paragraphs and maintain cohesiveness in writing. You can pose questions when you want to introduce a new point or conclude a point and emphasize it.

Example: Did you know that Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers? Yes, they accounted for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016.

Writing an essay on the leading causes of death? This is an intelligent way to introduce the reason and then go on to explain it.

What are the types of rhetorical questions?

There are three different kinds of rhetorical questions you can use in your essays:

Epiplexis : This rhetorical question is meant to express disapproval or shame to the reader. It is not meant to obtain an answer; it is a way to convince the reader by demonstrating frustration or grief.

Erotesis : This is used to express strong affirmation or denial. It usually implies an answer without giving the expectations of getting one. Erotesis or erotica is used to push the reader to ponder and reflect.

Hypophora : When a question is raised and is immediately answered, it is referred to as hypophora. It is used in a conversational style of writing and aids in generating curiosity in the reader. It’s also a way to make smooth transitions in the essay while letting the writer completely control the narrative.

What to AVOID while writing rhetorical questions in your essay?

It is important to use them sparingly and wherever appropriate. Rhetorical questions cannot be used in every piece of writing.

Using rhetorical questions in the thesis statement : Asking a rhetorical question in your thesis statement is an absolute no-no because thesis statements are meant to answer a question, not pose another question.

Overusing rhetorical questions : Sub7jecting the reader to an overdose of rhetorical questions, consequently or not, makes for an annoying reading experience.

Using rhetorical questions in research papers : Research papers require you to research a topic, take a stand and justify your claims. It’s a formal piece of writing that must be based on facts and research.

So, keep this literary device for persuasive or argumentative essays and creative writing pieces instead of using them in research papers.

20 Ideas of Good Rhetorical Questions to Start an Essay

  • "What if the world could be free of poverty?"
  • "Is it really possible to have peace in a world so full of conflict?"
  • "Can we ever truly understand the depths of the universe?"
  • "What does it really mean to be happy?"
  • "Is technology bringing us closer together, or driving us apart?"
  • "How far would you go to stand up for what you believe in?"
  • "What if we could turn back time and prevent disasters?"
  • "Can a single person really make a difference in the world?"
  • "Is absolute freedom a blessing or a curse?"
  • "What defines true success in life?"
  • "Are we truly the masters of our own destiny?"
  • "Is there a limit to human creativity?"
  • "How does one moment change the course of history?"
  • "What if we could read each other's thoughts?"
  • "Can justice always be served in an imperfect world?"
  • "Is it possible to live without regret?"
  • "How does culture shape our understanding of the world?"
  • "Are we responsible for the happiness of others?"
  • "What if the cure for cancer is just around the corner?"
  • "How does language shape our reality?"

While rhetorical questions are effective literary devices, you should know when using a rhetorical question is worthwhile and if it adds value to the piece of writing.

If you are struggling with rhetorical questions and are wondering how to get them right, don’t worry. Our professional essay writing service can help you write an essay using the correct literary devices, such as rhetorical questions, that will only alleviate your writing.

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9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Develop a rhetorical analysis through multiple drafts.
  • Identify and analyze rhetorical strategies in a rhetorical analysis.
  • Demonstrate flexible strategies for generating ideas, drafting, reviewing, collaborating, revising, rewriting, and editing.
  • Give and act on productive feedback for works in progress.

The ability to think critically about rhetoric is a skill you will use in many of your classes, in your work, and in your life to gain insight from the way a text is written and organized. You will often be asked to explain or to express an opinion about what someone else has communicated and how that person has done so, especially if you take an active interest in politics and government. Like Eliana Evans in the previous section, you will develop similar analyses of written works to help others understand how a writer or speaker may be trying to reach them.

Summary of Assignment: Rhetorical Analysis

The assignment is to write a rhetorical analysis of a piece of persuasive writing. It can be an editorial, a movie or book review, an essay, a chapter in a book, or a letter to the editor. For your rhetorical analysis, you will need to consider the rhetorical situation—subject, author, purpose, context, audience, and culture—and the strategies the author uses in creating the argument. Back up all your claims with evidence from the text. In preparing your analysis, consider these questions:

  • What is the subject? Be sure to distinguish what the piece is about.
  • Who is the writer, and what do you know about them? Be sure you know whether the writer is considered objective or has a particular agenda.
  • Who are the readers? What do you know or what can you find out about them as the particular audience to be addressed at this moment?
  • What is the purpose or aim of this work? What does the author hope to achieve?
  • What are the time/space/place considerations and influences of the writer? What can you know about the writer and the full context in which they are writing?
  • What specific techniques has the writer used to make their points? Are these techniques successful, unsuccessful, or questionable?

For this assignment, read the following opinion piece by Octavio Peterson, printed in his local newspaper. You may choose it as the text you will analyze, continuing the analysis on your own, or you may refer to it as a sample as you work on another text of your choosing. Your instructor may suggest presidential or other political speeches, which make good subjects for rhetorical analysis.

When you have read the piece by Peterson advocating for the need to continue teaching foreign languages in schools, reflect carefully on the impact the letter has had on you. You are not expected to agree or disagree with it. Instead, focus on the rhetoric—the way Peterson uses language to make his point and convince you of the validity of his argument.

Another Lens. Consider presenting your rhetorical analysis in a multimodal format. Use a blogging site or platform such as WordPress or Tumblr to explore the blogging genre, which includes video clips, images, hyperlinks, and other media to further your discussion. Because this genre is less formal than written text, your tone can be conversational. However, you still will be required to provide the same kind of analysis that you would in a traditional essay. The same materials will be at your disposal for making appeals to persuade your readers. Rhetorical analysis in a blog may be a new forum for the exchange of ideas that retains the basics of more formal communication. When you have completed your work, share it with a small group or the rest of the class. See Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image for more about creating a multimodal composition.

Quick Launch: Start with a Thesis Statement

After you have read this opinion piece, or another of your choice, several times and have a clear understanding of it as a piece of rhetoric, consider whether the writer has succeeded in being persuasive. You might find that in some ways they have and in others they have not. Then, with a clear understanding of your purpose—to analyze how the writer seeks to persuade—you can start framing a thesis statement : a declarative sentence that states the topic, the angle you are taking, and the aspects of the topic the rest of the paper will support.

Complete the following sentence frames as you prepare to start:

  • The subject of my rhetorical analysis is ________.
  • My goal is to ________, not necessarily to ________.
  • The writer’s main point is ________.
  • I believe the writer has succeeded (or not) because ________.
  • I believe the writer has succeeded in ________ (name the part or parts) but not in ________ (name the part or parts).
  • The writer’s strongest (or weakest) point is ________, which they present by ________.

Drafting: Text Evidence and Analysis of Effect

As you begin to draft your rhetorical analysis, remember that you are giving your opinion on the author’s use of language. For example, Peterson has made a decision about the teaching of foreign languages, something readers of the newspaper might have different views on. In other words, there is room for debate and persuasion.

The context of the situation in which Peterson finds himself may well be more complex than he discusses. In the same way, the context of the piece you choose to analyze may also be more complex. For example, perhaps Greendale is facing an economic crisis and must pare its budget for educational spending and public works. It’s also possible that elected officials have made budget cuts for education a part of their platform or that school buildings have been found obsolete for safety measures. On the other hand, maybe a foreign company will come to town only if more Spanish speakers can be found locally. These factors would play a part in a real situation, and rhetoric would reflect that. If applicable, consider such possibilities regarding the subject of your analysis. Here, however, these factors are unknown and thus do not enter into the analysis.


One effective way to begin a rhetorical analysis is by using an anecdote, as Eliana Evans has done. For a rhetorical analysis of the opinion piece, a writer might consider an anecdote about a person who was in a situation in which knowing another language was important or not important. If they begin with an anecdote, the next part of the introduction should contain the following information:

  • Author’s name and position, or other qualification to establish ethos
  • Title of work and genre
  • Author’s thesis statement or stance taken (“Peterson argues that . . .”)
  • Brief introductory explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis or stance
  • If relevant, a brief summary of context and culture

Once the context and situation for the analysis are clear, move directly to your thesis statement. In this case, your thesis statement will be your opinion of how successful the author has been in achieving the established goal through the use of rhetorical strategies. Read the sentences in Table 9.1 , and decide which would make the best thesis statement. Explain your reasoning in the right-hand column of this or a similar chart.

The introductory paragraph or paragraphs should serve to move the reader into the body of the analysis and signal what will follow.

Your next step is to start supporting your thesis statement—that is, how Octavio Peterson, or the writer of your choice, does or does not succeed in persuading readers. To accomplish this purpose, you need to look closely at the rhetorical strategies the writer uses.

First, list the rhetorical strategies you notice while reading the text, and note where they appear. Keep in mind that you do not need to include every strategy the text contains, only those essential ones that emphasize or support the central argument and those that may seem fallacious. You may add other strategies as well. The first example in Table 9.2 has been filled in.

When you have completed your list, consider how to structure your analysis. You will have to decide which of the writer’s statements are most effective. The strongest point would be a good place to begin; conversely, you could begin with the writer’s weakest point if that suits your purposes better. The most obvious organizational structure is one of the following:

  • Go through the composition paragraph by paragraph and analyze its rhetorical content, focusing on the strategies that support the writer’s thesis statement.
  • Address key rhetorical strategies individually, and show how the author has used them.

As you read the next few paragraphs, consult Table 9.3 for a visual plan of your rhetorical analysis. Your first body paragraph is the first of the analytical paragraphs. Here, too, you have options for organizing. You might begin by stating the writer’s strongest point. For example, you could emphasize that Peterson appeals to ethos by speaking personally to readers as fellow citizens and providing his credentials to establish credibility as someone trustworthy with their interests at heart.

Following this point, your next one can focus, for instance, on Peterson’s view that cutting foreign language instruction is a danger to the education of Greendale’s children. The points that follow support this argument, and you can track his rhetoric as he does so.

You may then use the second or third body paragraph, connected by a transition, to discuss Peterson’s appeal to logos. One possible transition might read, “To back up his assertion that omitting foreign languages is detrimental to education, Peterson provides examples and statistics.” Locate examples and quotes from the text as needed. You can discuss how, in citing these statistics, Peterson uses logos as a key rhetorical strategy.

In another paragraph, focus on other rhetorical elements, such as parallelism, repetition, and rhetorical questions. Moreover, be sure to indicate whether the writer acknowledges counterclaims and whether they are accepted or ultimately rejected.

The question of other factors at work in Greendale regarding finances, or similar factors in another setting, may be useful to mention here if they exist. As you continue, however, keep returning to your list of rhetorical strategies and explaining them. Even if some appear less important, they should be noted to show that you recognize how the writer is using language. You will likely have a minimum of four body paragraphs, but you may well have six or seven or even more, depending on the work you are analyzing.

In your final body paragraph, you might discuss the argument that Peterson, for example, has made by appealing to readers’ emotions. His calls for solidarity at the end of the letter provide a possible solution to his concern that the foreign language curriculum “might vanish like a puff of smoke.”

Use Table 9.3 to organize your rhetorical analysis. Be sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence and that you use transitions to flow smoothly from one idea to the next.

As you conclude your essay, your own logic in discussing the writer’s argument will make it clear whether you have found their claims convincing. Your opinion, as framed in your conclusion, may restate your thesis statement in different words, or you may choose to reveal your thesis at this point. The real function of the conclusion is to confirm your evaluation and show that you understand the use of the language and the effectiveness of the argument.

In your analysis, note that objections could be raised because Peterson, for example, speaks only for himself. You may speculate about whether the next edition of the newspaper will feature an opposing opinion piece from someone who disagrees. However, it is not necessary to provide answers to questions you raise here. Your conclusion should summarize briefly how the writer has made, or failed to make, a forceful argument that may require further debate.

For more guidance on writing a rhetorical analysis, visit the Illinois Writers Workshop website or watch this tutorial .

Peer Review: Guidelines toward Revision and the “Golden Rule”

Now that you have a working draft, your next step is to engage in peer review, an important part of the writing process. Often, others can identify things you have missed or can ask you to clarify statements that may be clear to you but not to others. For your peer review, follow these steps and make use of Table 9.4 .

  • Quickly skim through your peer’s rhetorical analysis draft once, and then ask yourself, What is the main point or argument of my peer’s work?
  • Highlight, underline, or otherwise make note of statements or instances in the paper where you think your peer has made their main point.
  • Look at the draft again, this time reading it closely.
  • Ask yourself the following questions, and comment on the peer review sheet as shown.

The Golden Rule

An important part of the peer review process is to keep in mind the familiar wisdom of the “Golden Rule”: treat others as you would have them treat you. This foundational approach to human relations extends to commenting on others’ work. Like your peers, you are in the same situation of needing opinion and guidance. Whatever you have written will seem satisfactory or better to you because you have written it and know what you mean to say.

However, your peers have the advantage of distance from the work you have written and can see it through their own eyes. Likewise, if you approach your peer’s work fairly and free of personal bias, you’re likely to be more constructive in finding parts of their writing that need revision. Most important, though, is to make suggestions tactfully and considerately, in the spirit of helping, not degrading someone’s work. You and your peers may be reluctant to share your work, but if everyone approaches the review process with these ideas in mind, everyone will benefit from the opportunity to provide and act on sincerely offered suggestions.

Revising: Staying Open to Feedback and Working with It

Once the peer review process is complete, your next step is to revise the first draft by incorporating suggestions and making changes on your own. Consider some of these potential issues when incorporating peers’ revisions and rethinking your own work.

  • Too much summarizing rather than analyzing
  • Too much informal language or an unintentional mix of casual and formal language
  • Too few, too many, or inappropriate transitions
  • Illogical or unclear sequence of information
  • Insufficient evidence to support main ideas effectively
  • Too many generalities rather than specific facts, maybe from trying to do too much in too little time

In any case, revising a draft is a necessary step to produce a final work. Rarely will even a professional writer arrive at the best point in a single draft. In other words, it’s seldom a problem if your first draft needs refocusing. However, it may become a problem if you don’t address it. The best way to shape a wandering piece of writing is to return to it, reread it, slow it down, take it apart, and build it back up again. Approach first-draft writing for what it is: a warm-up or rehearsal for a final performance.

Suggestions for Revising

When revising, be sure your thesis statement is clear and fulfills your purpose. Verify that you have abundant supporting evidence and that details are consistently on topic and relevant to your position. Just before arriving at the conclusion, be sure you have prepared a logical ending. The concluding statement should be strong and should not present any new points. Rather, it should grow out of what has already been said and return, in some degree, to the thesis statement. In the example of Octavio Peterson, his purpose was to persuade readers that teaching foreign languages in schools in Greendale should continue; therefore, the conclusion can confirm that Peterson achieved, did not achieve, or partially achieved his aim.

When revising, make sure the larger elements of the piece are as you want them to be before you revise individual sentences and make smaller changes. If you make small changes first, they might not fit well with the big picture later on.

One approach to big-picture revising is to check the organization as you move from paragraph to paragraph. You can list each paragraph and check that its content relates to the purpose and thesis statement. Each paragraph should have one main point and be self-contained in showing how the rhetorical devices used in the text strengthen (or fail to strengthen) the argument and the writer’s ability to persuade. Be sure your paragraphs flow logically from one to the other without distracting gaps or inconsistencies.

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rhetorical question to end an essay

Rhetorical Question

rhetorical question to end an essay

Rhetorical Question Definition

What is a rhetorical question? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in which a question is asked for a reason other than to get an answer—most commonly, it's asked to make a persuasive point. For example, if a person asks, "How many times do I have to tell you not to eat my dessert?" he or she does not want to know the exact number of times the request will need to be repeated. Rather, the speaker's goal is to emphasize his or her growing frustration and—ideally—change the dessert-thief's behavior.

Some additional key details about rhetorical questions:

  • Rhetorical questions are also sometimes called erotema.
  • Rhetorical questions are a type of figurative language —they are questions that have another layer of meaning on top of their literal meaning.
  • Because rhetorical questions challenge the listener, raise doubt, and help emphasize ideas, they appear often in songs and speeches, as well as in literature.

How to Pronounce Rhetorical Question

Here's how to pronounce rhetorical question: reh- tor -ih-kuhl kwes -chun

Rhetorical Questions and Punctuation

A question is rhetorical if and only if its goal is to produce an effect on the listener, rather than to obtain information. In other words, a rhetorical question is not what we might call a "true" question in search of an answer. For this reason, many sources argue that rhetorical questions do not need to end in a traditional question mark. In the late 1500's, English printer Henry Denham actually designed a special question mark for rhetorical questions, which he referred to as a "percontation point." It looked like this: ⸮ (Here's a wikipedia article about Denham's percontation point and other forms of "irony punctuation.")

Though the percontation point has fallen out of use, modern writers do sometimes substitute a traditional question mark with a period or exclamation point after a rhetorical question. There is a lively debate as to whether this alternative punctuation is grammatically correct. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • In general, rhetorical questions do require a question mark.
  • When a question is a request in disguise, you may use a period. For instance, it is ok to write: "Will you please turn your attention to the speaker." or "Can you please go to the back of the line."
  • When a question is an exclamation in disguise, you may use an exclamation point. For instance, it is okay to write: "Were they ever surprised!"
  • When asking a question emotionally, you may use an exclamation point. For instance, " Who could blame him!" and "How do you know that!" are both correct.

Rhetorical Questions vs. Hypophora

Rhetorical questions are easy to confuse with hypophora , a similar but fundamentally different figure of speech in which a speaker poses a question and then immediately answers it. Hypophora is frequently used in persuasive speaking because the speaker can pose and answer a question that the audience is likely to be wondering about, thereby making the thought processes of the speaker and the audience seem more aligned. For example, here is an example of hypophora used in a speech by Dwight Eisenhower:

When the enemy struck on that June day of 1950, what did America do? It did what it always has done in all its times of peril. It appealed to the heroism of its youth.

While Eisenhower asked this question without expecting an answer from his audience, this is an example of hypophora because he answered his own question. In a rhetorical question, by contrast, the answer would be implied in the question—to pose a rhetorical question, Eisenhower might have said instead, "When the enemy struck, who in their right mind would have done nothing to retaliate?"

Rhetorical Questions vs. Aporia

Rhetorical questions are also related to a figure of speech called aporia . Aporia is an expression of doubt that may be real, or which may be feigned for rhetorical effect. These expressions of doubt may or may not be made through the form of a question. When they are made through the form of a question, those questions are sometimes rhetorical.

Aporia and Rhetorical Questions

When someone is pretending doubt for rhetorical effect, and uses a question as part of that expression of doubt, then the question is rhetorical. For example, consider this quotation from an oration by the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes:

I am at no loss for information about you and your family; but I am at a loss where to begin. Shall I relate how your father Tromes was a slave in the house of Elpias, who kept an elementary school near the Temple of Theseus, and how he wore shackles on his legs and a timber collar round his neck? Or how your mother practised daylight nuptials in an outhouse next door to Heros the bone-setter, and so brought you up to act in tableaux vivants and to excel in minor parts on the stage?

The questions Demosthenes poses are examples of both aporia and rhetorical question, because Demosthenes is feigning doubt (by posing rhetorical questions) in order to cast insulting aspersions on the character of the person he's addressing.

Aporia Without Rhetorical Questions

If the expression of doubt is earnest, however, then the question is not rhetorical. An example of aporia that is not also a rhetorical question comes from the most famous excerpt of Shakespeare's Hamlet:

To be or not to be—that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?

While Hamlet asks this question without expecting an answer (he's alone when he asks it), he's not asking in order to persuade or make a point. It's a legitimate expression of doubt, which leads Hamlet into a philosophical debate about whether one should face the expected miseries of life or kill oneself and face the possible unknown terrors of death. It's therefore not a rhetorical question, because Hamlet asks the question as an opening to actually seek an answer to the question he is obsessing over.

Rhetorical Question Examples

Rhetorical question examples in literature.

Rhetorical questions are particularly common in plays, appearing frequently in both spoken dialogue between characters, and in monologues or soliloquies, where they allow the playwright to reveal a character's inner life.

Rhetorical Questions in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice :

In his speech from Act 3, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice , Shylock uses rhetorical questions to point out the indisputable similarities between Jews and Christians, in such a way that any listener would find him impossible to contradict:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? 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? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Rhetorical questions in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet :

In this soliloquy from Act 2, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet , Juliet poses a series of rhetorical questions as she struggles to grasp the difficult truth—that her beloved Romeo is a member of the Montague family:

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself.

Rhetorical Question Examples in Political Speeches

Rhetorical questions often "challenge" the listener to contradict what the speaker is saying. If the speaker frames the rhetorical question well, it gives the impression that his or her view is true and that it would be foolish, or even impossible, to contradict the speaker's argument. In other words, rhetorical questions are great for speeches.

Rhetorical Questions in Ronald Reagan's 1980 Republican National Convention Acceptance Address:

In this speech, Reagan uses a series of rhetorical questions—referred to as "stacked" rhetorical questions—to criticize the presidency of his predecessor and running opponent, Jimmy Carter:

Can anyone look at the record of this Administration and say, "Well done"? Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, "Keep up the good work"? Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today say, "Let's have four more years of this"?

Rhetorical Questions in Hillary Clinton's 2016 Democratic National Convention Speech:

In this portion of her speech, Clinton argues that her opponent Donald Trump is not temperamentally fit to become president:

A president should respect the men and women who risk their lives to serve our country—including Captain Khan and the sons of Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, both Marines. So just ask yourself: Do you really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander-in-chief?

Rhetorical Question Examples in Song Lyrics

Love has left even the best musicians of our time feeling lost, searching for meaning, and—as you might expect—full of rhetorical questions. Musicians such as Tina Turner, Jean Knight, and Stevie Wonder have all released hits structured around rhetorical questions, which allow them to powerfully express the joy, the pain, and the mystery of L-O-V-E.

Rhetorical Questions in "What's Love Got to do with It" by Tina Turner

What's love got to do, got to do with it What's love but a second hand emotion What's love got to do, got to do with it Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

Rhetorical Questions in "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight

Now because you wear all those fancy clothes (oh yeah) And have a big fine car, oh yes you do now Do you think I can afford to give you my love (oh yeah) You think you're higher than every star above

Mr. Big Stuff Who do you think you are Mr. Big Stuff You're never gonna get my love

Rhetorical Questions in "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder

Isn't she lovely Isn't she wonderful Isn't she precious Less than one minute old I never thought through love we'd be Making one as lovely as she But isn't she lovely made from love

Stevie Wonder wrote "Isn't She Lovely" to celebrate the birth of his daughter, Aisha. The title is a perfect example of a rhetorical question, because Wonder isn't seeking a second opinion here. Instead, the question is meant to convey the love and amazement he feels towards his daughter.

Why Do Writers Use Rhetorical Questions?

Authors, playwrights, speech writers and musicians use rhetorical questions for a variety of reasons:

  • To challenge the listener
  • To emphasize an idea
  • To raise doubt
  • To demonstrate that a previously asked question was obvious

The examples included in this guide to rhetorical questions have largely pointed to the persuasive power of rhetorical questions, and covered the way that they are used in arguments, both real and fictional. However, poets also frequently use rhetorical questions for their lyrical, expressive qualities. Take the poem below, "Danse Russe (Russian Dance)" by William Carlos Williams:

If when my wife is sleeping and the baby and Kathleen are sleeping and the sun is a flame-white disc in silken mists above shining trees,— if I in my north room dance naked, grotesquely before my mirror waving my shirt round my head and singing softly to myself: "I am lonely, lonely. I was born to be lonely. I am best so!" If I admire my arms, my face, my shoulders, flanks, buttocks against the yellow drawn shades,— Who shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?

The rhetorical question that concludes this poem has the effect of challenging the reader to doubt Williams' happiness—daring the listener to question this intimate, eccentric portrait of the poet's private world. By ending the poem in this way, Williams maintains a delicate balance. Throughout the poem, he draws the reader in and confides secrets of his interior life, but the question at the end is an almost defiant statement that he does not require the reader's approval. Rather, the reader—like the mirror—is simply there to witness his happy solitude.

Other Helpful Rhetorical Question Resources

  • The Wikipedia Page on Rhetorical Questions: A general explanation with a variety of examples, as well as links to specific resources with punctuation rules.
  • The Dictionary Definition of Rhetorical Question: A basic definition with some historical information.
  • A detailed explanation of rhetorical questions , along with related figures of speech that involve questions.
  • A video of Ronald Reagan's 1980 Republican National Convention Speech, in which he asks stacked rhetorical questions.
  • An article listing the greatest rhetorical questions in the history of pop music.

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What Is a Rhetorical Analysis and How to Write a Great One

Helly Douglas

Helly Douglas

Cover image for article

Do you have to write a rhetorical analysis essay? Fear not! We’re here to explain exactly what rhetorical analysis means, how you should structure your essay, and give you some essential “dos and don’ts.”

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

How do you write a rhetorical analysis, what are the three rhetorical strategies, what are the five rhetorical situations, how to plan a rhetorical analysis essay, creating a rhetorical analysis essay, examples of great rhetorical analysis essays, final thoughts.

A rhetorical analysis essay studies how writers and speakers have used words to influence their audience. Think less about the words the author has used and more about the techniques they employ, their goals, and the effect this has on the audience.

Image showing definitions

In your analysis essay, you break a piece of text (including cartoons, adverts, and speeches) into sections and explain how each part works to persuade, inform, or entertain. You’ll explore the effectiveness of the techniques used, how the argument has been constructed, and give examples from the text.

A strong rhetorical analysis evaluates a text rather than just describes the techniques used. You don’t include whether you personally agree or disagree with the argument.

Structure a rhetorical analysis in the same way as most other types of academic essays . You’ll have an introduction to present your thesis, a main body where you analyze the text, which then leads to a conclusion.

Think about how the writer (also known as a rhetor) considers the situation that frames their communication:

  • Topic: the overall purpose of the rhetoric
  • Audience: this includes primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences
  • Purpose: there are often more than one to consider
  • Context and culture: the wider situation within which the rhetoric is placed

Back in the 4th century BC, Aristotle was talking about how language can be used as a means of persuasion. He described three principal forms —Ethos, Logos, and Pathos—often referred to as the Rhetorical Triangle . These persuasive techniques are still used today.

Image showing rhetorical strategies

Rhetorical Strategy 1: Ethos

Are you more likely to buy a car from an established company that’s been an important part of your community for 50 years, or someone new who just started their business?

Reputation matters. Ethos explores how the character, disposition, and fundamental values of the author create appeal, along with their expertise and knowledge in the subject area.

Aristotle breaks ethos down into three further categories:

  • Phronesis: skills and practical wisdom
  • Arete: virtue
  • Eunoia: goodwill towards the audience

Ethos-driven speeches and text rely on the reputation of the author. In your analysis, you can look at how the writer establishes ethos through both direct and indirect means.

Rhetorical Strategy 2: Pathos

Pathos-driven rhetoric hooks into our emotions. You’ll often see it used in advertisements, particularly by charities wanting you to donate money towards an appeal.

Common use of pathos includes:

  • Vivid description so the reader can imagine themselves in the situation
  • Personal stories to create feelings of empathy
  • Emotional vocabulary that evokes a response

By using pathos to make the audience feel a particular emotion, the author can persuade them that the argument they’re making is compelling.

Rhetorical Strategy 3: Logos

Logos uses logic or reason. It’s commonly used in academic writing when arguments are created using evidence and reasoning rather than an emotional response. It’s constructed in a step-by-step approach that builds methodically to create a powerful effect upon the reader.

Rhetoric can use any one of these three techniques, but effective arguments often appeal to all three elements.

The rhetorical situation explains the circumstances behind and around a piece of rhetoric. It helps you think about why a text exists, its purpose, and how it’s carried out.

Image showing 5 rhetorical situations

The rhetorical situations are:

  • 1) Purpose: Why is this being written? (It could be trying to inform, persuade, instruct, or entertain.)
  • 2) Audience: Which groups or individuals will read and take action (or have done so in the past)?
  • 3) Genre: What type of writing is this?
  • 4) Stance: What is the tone of the text? What position are they taking?
  • 5) Media/Visuals: What means of communication are used?

Understanding and analyzing the rhetorical situation is essential for building a strong essay. Also think about any rhetoric restraints on the text, such as beliefs, attitudes, and traditions that could affect the author's decisions.

Before leaping into your essay, it’s worth taking time to explore the text at a deeper level and considering the rhetorical situations we looked at before. Throw away your assumptions and use these simple questions to help you unpick how and why the text is having an effect on the audience.

Image showing what to consider when planning a rhetorical essay

1: What is the Rhetorical Situation?

  • Why is there a need or opportunity for persuasion?
  • How do words and references help you identify the time and location?
  • What are the rhetoric restraints?
  • What historical occasions would lead to this text being created?

2: Who is the Author?

  • How do they position themselves as an expert worth listening to?
  • What is their ethos?
  • Do they have a reputation that gives them authority?
  • What is their intention?
  • What values or customs do they have?

3: Who is it Written For?

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How is this appealing to this particular audience?
  • Who are the possible secondary and tertiary audiences?

4: What is the Central Idea?

  • Can you summarize the key point of this rhetoric?
  • What arguments are used?
  • How has it developed a line of reasoning?

5: How is it Structured?

  • What structure is used?
  • How is the content arranged within the structure?

6: What Form is Used?

  • Does this follow a specific literary genre?
  • What type of style and tone is used, and why is this?
  • Does the form used complement the content?
  • What effect could this form have on the audience?

7: Is the Rhetoric Effective?

  • Does the content fulfil the author’s intentions?
  • Does the message effectively fit the audience, location, and time period?

Once you’ve fully explored the text, you’ll have a better understanding of the impact it’s having on the audience and feel more confident about writing your essay outline.

A great essay starts with an interesting topic. Choose carefully so you’re personally invested in the subject and familiar with it rather than just following trending topics. There are lots of great ideas on this blog post by My Perfect Words if you need some inspiration. Take some time to do background research to ensure your topic offers good analysis opportunities.

Image showing considerations for a rhetorical analysis topic

Remember to check the information given to you by your professor so you follow their preferred style guidelines. This outline example gives you a general idea of a format to follow, but there will likely be specific requests about layout and content in your course handbook. It’s always worth asking your institution if you’re unsure.

Make notes for each section of your essay before you write. This makes it easy for you to write a well-structured text that flows naturally to a conclusion. You will develop each note into a paragraph. Look at this example by College Essay for useful ideas about the structure.

Image showing how to structure an essay

1: Introduction

This is a short, informative section that shows you understand the purpose of the text. It tempts the reader to find out more by mentioning what will come in the main body of your essay.

  • Name the author of the text and the title of their work followed by the date in parentheses
  • Use a verb to describe what the author does, e.g. “implies,” “asserts,” or “claims”
  • Briefly summarize the text in your own words
  • Mention the persuasive techniques used by the rhetor and its effect

Create a thesis statement to come at the end of your introduction.

After your introduction, move on to your critical analysis. This is the principal part of your essay.

  • Explain the methods used by the author to inform, entertain, and/or persuade the audience using Aristotle's rhetorical triangle
  • Use quotations to prove the statements you make
  • Explain why the writer used this approach and how successful it is
  • Consider how it makes the audience feel and react

Make each strategy a new paragraph rather than cramming them together, and always use proper citations. Check back to your course handbook if you’re unsure which citation style is preferred.

3: Conclusion

Your conclusion should summarize the points you’ve made in the main body of your essay. While you will draw the points together, this is not the place to introduce new information you’ve not previously mentioned.

Use your last sentence to share a powerful concluding statement that talks about the impact the text has on the audience(s) and wider society. How have its strategies helped to shape history?

Before You Submit

Poor spelling and grammatical errors ruin a great essay. Use ProWritingAid to check through your finished essay before you submit. It will pick up all the minor errors you’ve missed and help you give your essay a final polish. Look at this useful ProWritingAid webinar for further ideas to help you significantly improve your essays. Sign up for a free trial today and start editing your essays!

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You’ll find countless examples of rhetorical analysis online, but they range widely in quality. Your institution may have example essays they can share with you to show you exactly what they’re looking for.

The following links should give you a good starting point if you’re looking for ideas:

Pearson Canada has a range of good examples. Look at how embedded quotations are used to prove the points being made. The end questions help you unpick how successful each essay is.

Excelsior College has an excellent sample essay complete with useful comments highlighting the techniques used.

Brighton Online has a selection of interesting essays to look at. In this specific example, consider how wider reading has deepened the exploration of the text.

Image showing tips when reading a sample essay

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay can seem daunting, but spending significant time deeply analyzing the text before you write will make it far more achievable and result in a better-quality essay overall.

It can take some time to write a good essay. Aim to complete it well before the deadline so you don’t feel rushed. Use ProWritingAid’s comprehensive checks to find any errors and make changes to improve readability. Then you’ll be ready to submit your finished essay, knowing it’s as good as you can possibly make it.

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Helly Douglas is a UK writer and teacher, specialising in education, children, and parenting. She loves making the complex seem simple through blogs, articles, and curriculum content. You can check out her work at or connect on Twitter @hellydouglas. When she’s not writing, you will find her in a classroom, being a mum or battling against the wilderness of her garden—the garden is winning!

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Rhetorical Questions in Essays

Rhetorical Questions “Mr. Smith says that I shouldn’t use thought-provoking questions in my thesis statements,” said Issa. “May I read you my thesis?” “Sure. Let’s hear it,” responds Mandy. “My thesis is ‘Do people really want to be successful and happy?’” “Well, it is called a thesis statement , not a thesis question , ” Mandy replied. “Plus, doesn’t the  answer appear in the question itself?” “Oh, I get it. It’s one of those rhetorical questions,” says Issa. “But, do you really get it?” asks Mandy. “Ah… A rhetorical question. Very funny.” “Apparently not so funny to Mr. Smith,” says Mandy.

Definition and Examples

A rhetorical question is a statement formed as a question. Rhetorical questions can be manipulative because they are designed to appear objective and open-ended, but may actually lead the reader to a foregone conclusion.

The rhetorical question takes several forms:

  • It may answer itself and require no response. Example: Do people want to be successful?
  • It may be used to provoke thought. Example: What if this generation could solve hunger?
  • It may be used to state the obvious. Example: Can students try a bit harder next time?
  • It may have no possible answer. Example: What if there is no answer to this problem?

Read the rules.

Don’t use rhetorical questions as thesis statements. Conclusion paragraphs may include rhetorical questions to provide questions for further study beyond the essay itself.

In the following sentences, [bracket] the rhetorical questions.

  • How could they know? Why are the couples traveling to Europe for business?
  • Without the tools the project was impossible to complete. Why bother? Does this project have a purpose?
  • What is the message within that painting? What if all works of art meant something?
  • If love is the answer, what is the question? Why do people fall in love? Does everyone do so?
  • What happens when dreams are delayed? Can dreams be real? Or are dreams simply dreams?

Revise the rhetorical question into a statement.

Of what use are rhetorical questions?

  • [How could they know?] Why are the couples traveling to Europe for business?
  • Without the tools the project was impossible to complete. [Why bother?] [Does this project have a purpose?]
  • What is the message within that painting? [What if all works of art meant something?]
  • [If love is the answer, what is the question?] [Why do people fall in love?] [Does everyone do so?]
  • [What happens when dreams are delayed?] [Can dreams be real?] [Or are dreams simply dreams?]

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s  TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE .   This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards,   8 on-demand   writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision   and 64 rhetorical stance   “openers,”  writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your  essay instruction in   this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs) ,

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

rhetorical question to end an essay

Writing composition rules , essay rules , essay structure , essay style , essay writing , essay writing rules , five paragraph essays , how to write an essay , Mark Pennington , questions in conclusions , questions in essays , rhetorical devices , rhetorical questions , Teaching Essay Strategies , thesis statement questions , using questions to provoke thought , writing programs

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What Is a Rhetorical Question?

What Is a Rhetorical Question?

3-minute read

  • 4th April 2023

Rhetorical questions can be an effective tool for writers and speakers to connect with their audience and convey their message more effectively. In this article, we’ll discuss rhetorical questions, how to use them, and some examples.

Definition of a Rhetorical Question

A rhetorical question is a question that isn’t meant to be answered. It’s asked to make a point or create an effect rather than to elicit an actual response. Here are a few examples:

·   Are you kidding me? ‒ Used to express disbelief or shock

·   Do you think I was born yesterday? ‒ Used to express suspicion or doubt

·   Why not? – Used to express willingness to try something

How to Use a Rhetorical Question

Rhetorical questions are rhetorical devices often used in writing and speech to engage the audience, emphasize a point, or provoke thought. They can be used to introduce a topic, make a statement, or open an argument.

Conversational Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are used in everyday speech and conversations. For example:

·   Who knows? ‒ Indicates that no one knows the answer

·   Isn’t that the truth? ‒ Used to express agreement with something

Introducing a Topic

Rhetorical questions are a common strategy in essay writing to introduce a topic or persuade the reader . Here are some essay questions with rhetorical questions you could use to introduce the topic:

Essay Question: Why should we care about climate change?

Rhetorical Question Introduction: Would you like to live on a dying planet?

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Essay Question: Are dress codes a good idea for school?

Rhetorical Question Introduction: Wouldn’t you like the freedom to choose what you want to wear?

Famous Examples of Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are a powerful and effective device to use in speech and writing, which is why you can find countless examples, from past and present figures, using them. Here are a few examples:

Here, Obama is using rhetorical questions to emphasize a point to his audience about what type of nation America is. The questions demonstrate his stance on immigration in America.

Dr. King used a variety of literary devices in his writing and speeches to inspire and invoke change and action in his audience. Here, he poses the rhetorical question, “Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history?” to get his audience thinking. There’s no obvious answer here. He’s setting up his response to this seemingly unanswerable question.

Here, Sojourner Truth is speaking at the 1851 Women’s Convention to persuade the audience that women should have the right to vote like men. She’s emphasizing that she can do everything a man can do and more (childbirth), but she can’t vote like a man because she’s a woman.

Rhetorical questions are statements pretending to be a question. They’re not to be answered, as their answer should be obvious or there isn’t an obvious answer.

You can use rhetorical questions to emphasize a point, introduce a topic, or encourage your audience to think critically about an issue. If you’re looking to enhance your speaking or writing, check out our Literary Devices page to learn more.

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Rhetorical Question

Definition of rhetorical question.

A rhetorical question is asked just for effect, or to lay emphasis on some point being discussed when no real answer is expected. A rhetorical question may have an obvious answer, but the questioner asks it to lay emphasis on the point. In literature, a rhetorical question is self-evident and used for style as an impressive persuasive device.

Broadly speaking, a rhetorical question is asked when the questioner himself knows the answer already, or an answer is not actually demanded. So, an answer is not expected from the audience . Such a question is used to emphasize a point or draw the audience’s attention.

Common Rhetorical Question Examples

Rhetorical questions, though almost needless or meaningless, seem a basic need of daily language. Some common examples of rhetorical questions from daily life are as follows:

  • “Who knows?”
  • “Are you stupid?”
  • “Did you hear me?”

Mostly, it is easy to spot a rhetorical question because of its position in the sentence . It occurs immediately after a comment made, and states the opposite of it. The idea again is to make a point more prominent. Some rhetorical question examples are as follows. Keep in mind that they are also called “tag questions” if used in everyday conversation.

  • “It’s too hot today, isn’t it? “
  • “The actors played the roles well, didn’t they? “

How to Punctuation Rhetorical Questions?

It is not very difficult to tell how to punctuate a rhetorical question. It either ends on a question mark or a period. However, it is to be kept in mind that if the question occurs in the middle of a simple or complex sentence, it does not require any punctuation mark. If, on the other hand, it occurs by the end of the sentence or text, then it needs a question mark. Sometimes writers use an exclamation mark instead of a question mark. That is entirely a contextual requirement that the writer understands and wants to convey to his audiences.

Rhetorical Question and Hypophora

A rhetorical question is a rhetorical device , while a hypophora is a figure of speech . Whereas in a rhetorical question, the person does not need an answer, nor does he/she answers that question, in hypophora, the person posing a question gives its answer as well. It is a simple question with a simple and single sentence answer.

 Rhetorical Question and Aporia

Similar to the rhetorical question, aporia is also a rhetorical device. However, it only expresses skepticism to prove something. Therefore, it becomes a question when expressing that uncertainty. On the other hand, a rhetorical question does not express any uncertainty as it does not require an answer and is posed often with the attention to stress upon the idea about which it is posed.

Use of Rhetorical Questions in Sentences

  • i am obviously angry. Will you be okay if I punch you?
  • Do you wonder why Harry is such a dumb person like he’s lost his mind? Oh well!
  • The Earth revolves around the sun. Why? Because rest the of the planets do too.
  • Looking at the clock, the father asked his son, ‘What time do you think it is now ?’
  • Isn’t he the master of deceptions? Alas, you knew that too?

Examples of Rhetorical Questions in Literature

Rhetorical questions in literature are as important as they are in daily language, or perhaps even more so. The reason is the significant change a rhetorical question can bring about. The absence or presence of a rhetorical question in some of the most famous lines in literature would change the impact altogether. Some examples of rhetorical questions in the literature show that writers sometimes ask questions and then go on to answer them to produce the desired effect.

Example #1: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

JULIET: ” ’Tis but thy name that is my enemy. Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague ? It is nor hand, nor foot , Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name ? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

A very good example of a rhetorical question in literature is from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet . Here, Juliet makes a statement that a man’s name does not define him as a person. She draws attention to this issue by asking two important rhetorical questions, as noted in bold.

Example #2: Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley ends his masterpiece Ode to the West Wind with a rhetorical question:

“…O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?”

In this excerpt, Shelley achieves the desired effect by asking a rhetorical question, rather than making a statement. The answer to this question is not sought; rather, an effect is successfully created giving a fine finishing touch to the ode .

Example #3: Creation by Hladia Porter Stewart

Mrs. Hladia Porter Stewart in her poem Creation employs rhetorical questions to create effect and achieve the desired appeal of the poem.

“What made you think of love and tears And birth and death and pain?”

Without rhetorical questions, it might have been impossible for the poet to express herself as impressively as she does here.

Example #4: The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

“Will no one tell me what she sings?”

Notice, that an answer is not expected to this question. The poet prefers a rhetorical question to a plain statement to emphasize his feelings of pleasant surprise. Thus, the poem’s meaning is enhanced by the use of a rhetorical question.

Example #5: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

“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 character Shylock, in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice , asks a series of rhetorical questions in this excerpt. The questions don’t necessarily need answers. They are neither questions nor plain statements, but rather something in between the two.

Function of Rhetorical Question

Writers employ rhetorical questions for rhetorical effects, and we cannot easily quantify the impact rendered by a rhetorical question. The idea becomes all the more powerful, and our interest is aroused to continue to read and enjoy the technical and aesthetic beauty that a rhetorical question generates. Moreover, it is a requirement in persuasive speeches.

Synonyms of Rhetorical Question

There is no equivalent meaning to a rhetorical question. The following words may come close in meanings such as explanation, question, inquiry, rebuttal , question, inquiry, and query.

Related posts:

  • Rhetorical Device
  • Beg The Question
  • Hypothetical Question

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How to Write a Rhetorical Question in an Essay

Write a Rhetorical Question in an Essay

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Rhetorical questions are an essential part of essay writing and mastering them can significantly improve the quality of your work. A rhetorical question is one that does not require an answer, but rather is used to emphasize a point or create a thought-provoking response from the reader. They are often used to convey a sense of emotion and provide insight into a deeper message.

In this guide, we will discuss the basics of rhetorical questions and how they can be used to strengthen an argument in an essay. We will look at the different types of rhetorical questions and how to use them effectively. We will also cover guidelines for writing rhetorical questions and offer tips on proofreading. By the end of the article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of how to write effective rhetorical questions in your essays .

A rhetorical question is composed of two elements: the question itself and the context in which it is asked. The question should be phrased in such a way to spark a reaction from the readers. It may be a question that is answered in the essay or simply used as a method of emphasizing a point. The context in which it is asked should be appropriate for the given situation, such as a debate or discussion.

When crafting a rhetorical question, it helps to consider the audience. The question should be relevant to the topic being discussed and the tone should be adjusted to fit the situation. Additionally, the grammar should be accurate and the syntax should be clear. With these elements in place, the question should solidify the writer’s point and add depth to the essay.

Finally, it is important to proofread any rhetorical questions you include in your essay. A poorly placed question can distract from the overall argument and take away from the essay’s effectiveness. Read through your paper to make sure that the question is clear and concise, and that its meaning is not misinterpreted by your reader.

Rhetorical questions can be a powerful tool when used correctly in an essay. As long as you keep in mind the guidelines discussed above, you can successfully add rhetorical questions to your writing in a way that enhances the overall argument.

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What is a Rhetorical Question?

A rhetorical question is a type of question that doesn’t require an answer—in fact, it can be a powerful tool to enhance your writing. Unlike other types of questions, rhetorical questions are made to generate discussion on a particular topic or to evoke an emotional response from the reader. By utilizing rhetorical questions in your essay, you can create a more engaging and effective piece of writing.

Difference between Rhetorical Questions and Other Questions

Rhetorical questions differ from other types of questions in a few important ways. For example, when you ask an open-ended question such as “What is the best way to approach this problem?” you are expecting an answer. With a rhetorical question, however, you are not expecting a direct answer, and the purpose of the question is simply to make a point. Another difference between rhetorical questions and other types of questions is their structure. Rhetorical questions often take the form of a declarative statement, which sets them apart from the more familiar types of questions.

The Power of Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions can be a powerful tool for an essay writer since they can evoke an emotional response from the reader and foster a deeper level of engagement with the material. They also serve to spark further discussion on the topic and can help to better illustrate the writer’s point. By using rhetorical questions in your essay, you can ensure that your writing will be both engaging and effective.

Examples of Rhetorical Questions

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech where the question typically does not expect an answer, but instead serves as a device to create emphasis and provoke thought. Knowing how to skillfully use rhetorical questions in your writing can be a powerful tool and help you create more engaging content. Let’s take a look at some examples of rhetorical questions to better understand how they work.

One classic example of a rhetorical question is “C’mon, what do you think?” This conveys an implied message that the person you are asking should already know the answer or at least think critically about their opinion. It can be used when trying to make a point, or end a discussion.

Another example of a rhetorical question is “Why bother?” This is often used to express a feeling of apathy or suggest that something isn’t worth considering. It can have a persuasive effect as readers may be prompted to consider why they should even bother with something.

Finally, an example of a rhetorical question used for comic relief might be “Do I really need to explain this?” This is often used to show exasperation at a lack of understanding and can be useful for lightening the mood.

When constructing a rhetorical question, there are a few key elements to keep in mind. First, the question should be phrased in a way that does not expect an answer. Second, it should be relevant to the conversation or situation at hand. Finally, the rhetorical question should provide emphasis or clarity to what is being said.

By understanding how to effectively use rhetorical questions, you can add depth and power to your writing. We hope these examples have helped you better understand how to use rhetorical questions in your own writing.

Why Rhetorical Questions Are Important For Essay Writing

A rhetorical question is an important writing skill to have in your arsenal, particularly when it comes to essay writing . So why are rhetorical questions so important when crafting an essay? To put simply, they allow you to ask a question without requiring an answer. This can be a powerful tool to convey a point that you are attempting to make in your essay. By deliberately refraining from providing an answer, the reader is left with a thought-provoking question that will likely stay with them long after they’ve finished your essay.

Rhetorical questions should be used sparingly and judiciously, as overusing them can lead to confusion or give the impression that you haven’t done enough research on the topic at hand. When used effectively, however, they can be a great tool for ensuring that your readers are paying attention to the points you are making and engaging with the material in a meaningful way. One of the key advantages of rhetorical questions is that they can help ensure your essay is memorable and stays with the reader long after they’ve finished reading.

In this sense, a rhetorical question has the power to contribute significantly to your essay’s overall impact. They can also be used as an effective tool to transition between topics, helping to introduce a new idea while adding a sense of mystery and intrigue. Finally, they can be used to further reinforce solutions or arguments in your essay, helping to drive home the point you are trying to make.

As such, it is important to understand the purpose of rhetorical questions and the various ways you can use them to enhance your essay. When used effectively, rhetorical questions can add a great deal of depth and meaning to your essay, and help ensure that your readers stay engaged with your work.

Guidelines for Writing Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions can be a powerful tool when used correctly in an essay. They are designed to draw the reader in and encourage them to think about the topic in new ways. When writing a rhetorical question, there are several guidelines that you should consider in order to make sure that you are conveying your message in the most effective way possible.

First, you should think carefully about the context of your question. Make sure that your question fits in with the rest of the essay’s theme and purpose. Additionally, think about the audience you are writing for and tailor your question so that it speaks to their specific interests and concerns.

Next, when crafting the question itself, make sure to use language that is direct and concise. Avoid using unnecessary words or overly complex sentence structures. Your goal should be to create a clear and direct message that is easy for the reader to comprehend.

You should also strive to craft your rhetorical question in a way that offers the reader an opportunity to think more deeply about the issue. Ask a question that challenges the reader on an intellectual level, encouraging them to view the topic from a new perspective.

Finally, pay careful attention to the structure of your question. Consider whether you should use a positive or negative statement, as this will have a significant impact on how your question is received. Additionally, think about the best way to phrase your question as it relates to the tone of your essay.

By taking the time to consider these guidelines, you can make sure that you are creating effective rhetorical questions that will engage your readers and keep them interested in the topic. If you take the time to craft each one carefully and make sure that it fits in with the overall concept of your essay, then you will be able to create an essay that is sure to leave a lasting impression on your readers.

Structures for Writing Rhetorical Questions

Learning how to effectively write rhetorical questions can make your writing more effective, persuasive, and engaging. Before you begin constructing your own rhetorical questions, it’s important to understand the structures used when crafting them.

Rhetorical questions come in many different forms and have various purposes, so knowing which structure is best suited for your purpose can help get your message across more clearly. Here are some of the most common structures for writing rhetorical questions:

  • Meaningful Phrase: A meaningful phrase is a concise way to communicate an idea or an opinion. For example: “What’s the point?”
  • Inverted Sentence Structure: This structure involves inverting the normal sentence structure to create a question. For example: “Shouldn’t we be asking why?”
  • Parallelism: Parallelism is a technique that involves repeating words, phrases, or sentences in a specific pattern. This can help convey the point of the question more clearly. For example: “What have we done and what are we doing? What will we do?”
  • Compound Question: A compound question consists of two or more questions linked together with a conjunction. This can be used to emphasize the importance of the question or to draw attention to multiple aspects of the topic. For example: “Do we really understand the consequences of our actions, and are we prepared to face them?”
  • Implied Question: An implied question involves using a statement to imply a question. This structure can be useful if you want to create a certain tone or evoke a particular emotion. For example: “We can’t ignore the fact that this issue has far-reaching effects.”

When crafting rhetorical questions, it’s important to pay attention to the structure of the question in order to ensure that it communicates the desired message. By familiarizing yourself with these common structures, you can create powerful and effective rhetorical questions that will have a lasting impact on your readers.

Techniques for Writing an Effective Rhetorical Question

A rhetorical question is a powerful tool for an essay writer, as it can help to spark the reader’s interest, make them think critically about a topic, and draw their attention to certain details within your essay. To maximize the effectiveness of a rhetorical question, there are several writing techniques that you should keep in mind.

  • Be brief: Your rhetorical question should be short and to the point, so that your readers can quickly grasp its meaning. Strive to capture the essence of the thought in just a few words.
  • Use assertive language: When writing a rhetorical question, strive to use language that is assertive and authoritative, so that your reader will take the question seriously and take pause to consider its implications.
  • Choose the right tone: The tone of your rhetorical question will also be important. Consider the context of the essay and how different tones may affect its impact. Likewise, use carefully chosen words to ensure that the intended meaning is conveyed clearly.
  • Be specific: To really drive home the point of your rhetorical question, make sure that it is specific to the topic at hand. A good rhetorical question should be focused enough to make a statement about the topic, yet open-ended enough to raise questions that the reader can explore on their own.
  • Keep it relevant: The rhetorical question should be relevant to the essay’s content and should not be seen as an unrelated or unnecessary addition. It should be used to further emphasize a point or to explore an issue more deeply.

By utilizing these techniques and considering their impact, you can write effective rhetorical questions that will contribute to the success of your essay . As with any writing skill, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats and tone until you feel confident in your ability to craft a powerful rhetorical question.

Dos and Don’ts: Tips for Writing Rhetorical Questions in Your Essay

Writing a rhetorical question in your essay can be a powerful way to engage readers and make an impact on your audience. However, if done incorrectly, these questions can be ineffective and even confusing. To ensure you get the most out of your rhetorical questions, here are some dos and don’ts to follow when incorporating them into your writing.

  • Do: Make sure the rhetorical question challenges your reader to think about the topic at hand.
  • Don’t: Use rhetorical questions as a crutch instead of offering a well-thought out argument or point of view.
  • Do: Write your rhetorical questions in a concise, direct manner.
  • Don’t: Waffle with words and clutter your rhetorical questions with excessive modifiers.
  • Do: Ask a question that can’t actually be answered, serving to engage the reader instead.
  • Don’t: Set up a false dichotomy by asking a rhetorical question that simplifies a complex issue.
  • Do: Understand that rhetorical questions can be both positive or negative in nature.
  • Don’t: Assume your readers will always interpret your rhetorical questions in the way you intend.
  • Do: Frame your rhetorical questions in a way that encourages reflection and thought.
  • Don’t: Use rhetorical questions as a tool for manipulation or to push a certain agenda.

Overall, using rhetorical questions in your writing can be a very effective way to engage readers in thoughtful discussion. As long as you consider the intention of your questions, avoid logical fallacies, and keep them concise, your rhetorical questions should make a powerful impact on your audience.

Editing/Proofreading: The Importance of Checking for Unintended Meaning

When it comes to writing a rhetorical question, you must be careful that the words you use do not create an unintended meaning. As rhetorical questions are meant to evoke thought in the reader, it is important to make sure the meaning you intend is conveyed and that any ambiguity is removed in the editing and proofreading process.

Editing and proofreading are key processes to ensuring your rhetorical question conveys the precise message or sentiment that you want it to. A simple misread or misspelling can turn a powerful piece of writing into something completely misconstrued. It is important to review your work several times to ensure that your rhetorical question does not inadvertently provide a different message than what you had intended.

When editing and proofreading your rhetorical questions, pay attention to the wording you use. Make sure that each term is in its correct form and that all words are spelled correctly. Also watch out for any words or phrases that may have multiple meanings that could lead to confusion or misinterpretation. This is why it’s important to read through the question several times and get input from a colleague or second set of eyes for feedback.

In addition to checking for clarity, you should also make sure that your rhetorical question flows naturally and reads well. Pay close attention to the sentence structure and how the words are arranged. Are there any awkward pauses or lengthy phrases that might confuse your readers? You may want to consider restructuring some of your sentences to improve the flow and clarity of the rhetorical question.

Editing and proofreading your rhetorical questions is an important step in the writing process. By taking the time to ensure that your question conveys the message you want and reads clearly, you’ll be able to effectively communicate with your readers and create a powerful impact.

Applications of Rhetorical Questions

A rhetorical question can be an incredibly powerful tool in any type of written communication, beyond just essays. In fact, rhetorical questions can do even more to engage readers and draw attention to certain points that you are making.

Rhetorical questions can be used to emphasize a point, engage readers in some self-reflection, or to simply draw the reader’s attention to something of importance. As such, it is important to be aware of the potential applications and how to use them effectively.

One way to use a rhetorical question to your advantage is to emphasize a key point that you are trying to make. For example, if you are arguing for a particular stance on an issue, you could ask a rhetorical question to draw attention to that point and challenge your readers to think about it. Another effective way to use rhetorical questions is to get your readers to consider their own situation and values. This can help to engage them more with the discussion by asking them to reflect on the material they have read.

When incorporating rhetorical questions into non-essay writing, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Be selective with the questions you ask – make sure that they are relevant to the topic at hand.
  • Keep your questions succinct and avoid using too many words.
  • Make sure your questions are clear and easy to understand.
  • Maintain a consistent tone throughout your writing.

By following these guidelines, you can harness the power of a rhetorical question to effectively communicate your message and engage your readers. Using rhetorical questions in this way can help to bring your writing to life and create impactful and memorable content.

Writing an effective rhetorical question can be a powerful tool for essay writers. In this guide, we have explored what is a rhetorical question, what are its purposes, and how to write one that truly has an impact on the reader. We’ve discussed common structures, techniques, and guidelines to consider when constructing a rhetorical question.

To conclude, here are the key points to remember when incorporating rhetorical questions into your writing:

  • A rhetorical question should always serve a purpose within the essay or written piece.
  • Choose the right structure and format for the rhetorical question.
  • Employ specific techniques to make the rhetorical question compelling.
  • Proofread the question to ensure accuracy and clarity.

If you follow the tips outlined in this guide , you will be able to write a rhetorical question that makes an impact and convinces your readers. So go ahead, give it a try!

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Write a Rhetorical Question in an Essay

  • Q: What is a rhetorical question? A: A rhetorical question is a form of question that doesn’t require, or expect, an answer. It is usually used to make a point, create emphasis or draw attention to a certain piece of information.
  • Q: What makes a rhetorical question different than other kinds of questions? A: Unlike other types of questions such as closed and open-ended questions, a rhetorical question does not require, nor expect, an answer. It requires the person reading it to reflect, rather than provide an answer.
  • Q: What are some examples of rhetorical questions? A: Examples of rhetorical questions include “”How can I be expected to solve this problem?”” or “”What do they expect us to do?””.
  • Q: What is the purpose of a rhetorical question in an essay? A: A rhetorical question can be a powerful tool for an essay writer as it invites readers to think critically about the topic being discussed and reflect upon the implications of the argument presented by the essay writer.
  • Q: What elements should be included when constructing a rhetorical question? A: When constructing a rhetorical question, ensure that the question contains enough detail to provide context and leave room for interpretation. Additionally, make sure you relate the rhetorical question to your intended outcome.
  • Q: Are there different structures and formats to consider when writing a rhetorical question? A: Yes, there are different approaches to writing a rhetorical question, such as questions with ellipses or exclamation mark at the end. Generally, the structure of the sentence should guide you on how best to express the rhetorical question.
  • Q: What writing techniques can help enhance the quality of the rhetorical question and contribute to the essay’s effectiveness? A: Using vivid language, concrete examples and references can help to enhance the quality of the rhetorical question and make the essay more effective.
  • Q: What Dos and Dont’s should readers be aware of when using rhetorical questions in their essays? A: Do keep your audience in mind when crafting your rhetorical question, ensure the question is relevant to the topic being discussed and pay attention to how it is being used. Don’t forget to proofread to check for errors and ambiguous phrasing.
  • Q: Are there any potential applications of rhetorical questions beyond essays? A: Yes, rhetorical questions can also be used in oral presentations, creative writing and even in marketing campaigns.
  • Q: What resources are available to help readers further expand upon what they have learnt in the post? A: There are a variety of blog posts, academic articles and books that can help readers gain a deeper understanding of the power and potential of rhetorical questions.

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky is a devoted educator, marketing specialist, and management expert with more than 15 years of experience in the education sector. After obtaining his business degree in 2016, Nick embarked on a quest to achieve his PhD, driven by his commitment to enhancing education for students worldwide. His vast experience, starting in 2008, has established him as a reputable authority in the field.

Nick's article, featured in Routledge's " Entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe: Development through Internationalization ," highlights his sharp insights and unwavering dedication to advancing the educational landscape. Inspired by his personal motto, "Make education better," Nick's mission is to streamline students' lives and foster efficient learning. His inventive ideas and leadership have contributed to the transformation of numerous educational experiences, distinguishing him as a true innovator in his field.

ib ia rubric

IB Internal Assessment Rubric and Grading Criteria

The IB IA rubric is carefully structured to assess students’ understanding, skills and application of subject matter in a nuanced and comprehensive manner. Each subject rubric, whether for sciences such as Biology and Chemistry, humanities such as History and Psychology, or Mathematics, emphasizes a unique set of criteria tailored to assess specific competencies and skills.

ib dp visual arts

Visual Arts IA Topics: The Best Topic Ideas

In the vast world of art, the possibilities for your IA topic are nearly limitless. Yet, this abundance of choice can sometimes feel overwhelming. Whether you’re drawn to traditional painting techniques, the avant-garde movements of the 20th century, or the intersection of digital media and art, your chosen topic should ignite a spark of curiosity and passion within you.

rhetorical question to end an essay

Theatre IA Topics: SL and HL Topic Ideas

Choosing the right topic for IA in the IB Theatre course is a crucial step that significantly influences your research process and overall learning experience. Whether in the Standard Level or Higher Level track, selecting your topic requires careful thought and consideration, aiming to balance personal interest with academic rigor. This guide offers a rich array of topic ideas and research questions to spark your creativity and intellectual curiosity in the vast world of theatre.

Music IA topics

Music IA Topics for SL and HL Students

When selecting a topic for your IB Music Internal Assessment, both SL and HL students face a unique set of challenges and opportunities. As a seasoned IB educator with years of experience guiding students through this process, I’ve come to recognize the importance of choosing a topic that aligns with the IB criteria and resonates with your musical interests and strengths.

Film IA Topics

Film IA Topics: SL and HL Topic Ideas

Choosing a topic for your IB Film Internal Assessment (IA) can be exciting and daunting. Whether you’re enrolled in the Standard Level (SL) or Higher Level (HL), the key is to select an option that not only intrigues you but also meets the criteria of the IB Film course. In this article, we dig into a variety of creative and thought-provoking ideas for both SL and HL Film IA topics.

IB Dance IA

IB Dance IA Topics: SL and HL Ideas

When it comes to the IB Dance Internal Assessment (IA), students face the exciting challenge of exploring a topic that resonates with their interests and meets the academic rigor of the IB curriculum. I’ve seen how choosing the right topic can set the stage for an enriching learning experience. In this article, I’m thrilled to share some engaging topic ideas for both SL and HL students aimed at sparking creativity and intellectual curiosity.

rhetorical question to end an essay

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Rhetorical Question

What is a rhetorical question.

Table of Contents

Examples of a Rhetorical Questions

The rhetorical question mark, examples of rhetorical questions in literature, why rhetorical questions are important.

rhetorical question examples

Formal Definition

A rhetorical question can be used to make a positive point:

  • What's not to like?
  • Who doesn't love pizza?
  • Wow, who knew?

A rhetorical question can be used to make a negative point:

  • Does it look like I'm bothered?
  • What is the matter with kids today?
  • What have the Romans ever done for us? (from Monty Python's Life of Brian)
  • Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? (from the 1607 speech to white settlers by Chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas)

A rhetorical question with an obvious answer (if it were answered) can be used to answer a real question:

  • Is your boss still ignoring you?   Do bears, er, live in the woods?

A rhetorical question can be used to introduce a subject:

  • What are super foods?
  • Why do we need to reduce carbon emissions?
  • What happened to your vote?

rhetorical question mark

  • "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? (Shylock from Shakespeare's play "The Merchant of Venice")
  • What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. (Juliet from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet")

(Benefit 1) Rhetorical questions make good titles and are engaging.

  • Who Was Responsible for the Genocide in Srebrenica?

(Benefit 2) Rhetorical questions can be diplomatic.

  • Who was the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest?
  • Sir Edmund Hillary is credited for being the first man to conquer Mount Everest. But, who did reach the summit first? Some believe that Englishman George Mallory, who led an expedition to Everest in 1924, reached the summit first. However, Mallory died on the mountain, and it is unknown whether he reached the top.
  • Use a rhetorical question as a title to engage your readers.
  • Use a rhetorical question like a soft statement when some diplomacy is required.

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An Introduction to Rhetorical Questions

Is This a Rhetorical Question?

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

A rhetorical question is a  question (such as "How could I be so stupid?") that's asked merely for effect with no answer expected. The answer may be obvious or immediately provided by the questioner. Also known as  erotesis , erotema, interrogatio, questioner , and reversed polarity question (RPQ) .

A rhetorical question can be "an effective persuasive device, subtly influencing the kind of response one wants to get from an audience " (Edward P.J. Corbett). See Examples and Observations, below. They may also be used for dramatic or comedic effect, and may be combined with other figures of speech , such as puns or double entendres .

In English, rhetorical questions are commonly used in speech and in informal kinds of writing (such as advertisements). Rhetorical questions appear less frequently in academic discourse .

Pronunciation: ri-TOR-i-kal KWEST-shun

Types of Rhetorical Questions

  • Anthypophora and Hypophora

Examples and Observations

  • "Something [rhetorical] questions all have in common . . . is that they are not asked, and are not understood, as ordinary information-seeking questions, but as making some kind of claim , or assertion, an assertion of the opposite polarity to that of the question." (Irene Koshik, Beyond Rhetorical Questions . John Benjamins, 2005)
  • " Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution? " (H. L. Mencken)
  • "It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come— was anyone ever so young? " (Joan Didion, "Goodbye to All That." Slouching Towards Bethlehem , 1968)
  • "The means are at hand to fulfill the age-old dream: poverty can be abolished. How long shall we ignore this under-developed nation in our midst ? How long shall we look the other way while our fellow human beings suffer? How long" (Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States , 1962)
  • "Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery ? Is that a question for republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to understand?" ( Frederick Douglass , "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" July 5, 1852)
  • "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed, if you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? ( Shylock in William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice )
  • "Can I ask a rhetorical question ? Well, can I?" (Ambrose Bierce)
  • "Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?" (1960s television advertisement for Dial soap)
  • "To actually see inside your ear canal--it would be fascinating, wouldn't it?" (Letter from Sonus, a hearing-aid company, quoted in "Rhetorical Questions We'd Rather Not Answer." The New Yorker , March 24, 2003)
  • "If practice makes perfect, and no one's perfect, then why practice?" (Billy Corgan)
  • "Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do 'practice'?" ( George Carlin )
  • "Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites, and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back three thousand years, haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?" (Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island . Doubleday, 1995)
  • "The Indians [in the Oliver Stone movie The Doors ] serve the same function they did in Dances With Wolves : they make the far more highly paid white movie actors seem soulful and important and in touch with ancient truths. Do Indians enjoy being used this way, as spiritual elves or cosmic merit badges?" (Libby Gelman-Waxner [Paul Rudnick], "Sex, Drugs, and Extra-Strength Excedrin." If You Ask Me , 1994)

Rhetorical Questions in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"

Rhetorical questions are those so worded that one and only one answer can be generally expected from the audience you are addressing. In this sense, they are like the unmentioned premises in abbreviated reasoning, which can go unmentioned because they can be taken for granted as generally acknowledged. "Thus, for example, Brutus asks the citizens of Rome: 'Who is here so base that would be a bondman?' adding at once: 'If any, speak, for him have I offended.' Again Brutus asks: 'Who is here so vile that will not love his country?' Let him also speak, 'for him I have offended.' Brutus dares to ask these rhetorical questions, knowing full well that no one will answer his rhetorical questions in the wrong way. "So, too, Marc Antony , after describing how Caesar's conquests filled Rome's coffers, asks: 'Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?' And after reminding the populace that Caesar thrice refused the crown that was offered him, Antony asks: 'Was this ambition?' Both are rhetorical questions to which one and only one answer can be expected." (Mortimer Adler, How to Speak How to Listen . Simon & Schuster, 1983)

Are Rhetorical Questions Persuasive?

"By arousing curiosity, rhetorical questions motivate people to try to answer the question that is posed. Consequently, people pay closer attention to information relevant to the rhetorical question. . . . "At this point, I think it is important to note that the fundamental problem in the study of rhetorical questions is the lack of focus on the persuasive effectiveness of different types of rhetorical questions. Clearly, an ironical rhetorical question is going to have a different effect on an audience than an agreement rhetorical question. Unfortunately, little research has been conducted on how different types of rhetorical questions operate in a persuasive context." (David R. Roskos-Ewoldsen, "What Is the Role of Rhetorical Questions in Persuasion?" Communication and Emotion: Essays in Honor of Dolf Zillmann , ed. by Jennings Bryant et al. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003)

Punctuating Rhetorical Questions

"From time to time, people become dissatisfied with the broad application of the question mark and try to narrow it down, usually by proposing distinct marks for the different kinds of question. Rhetorical questions have attracted particular attention, as—not requiring any answer—they are so different in kind. An Elizabethan printer, Henry Denham, was an early advocate, proposing in the 1580s a reverse question mark (؟) for this function, which came to be called a percontation mark (from a Latin word meaning a questioning act). Easy enough to handwrite, some late 16th century authors did sporadically use it, such as Robert Herrick. . . . But printers were unimpressed, and the mark never became standard. However, it has received a new lease of life online . . .." (David Crystal, Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation . St. Martin's Press, 2015)

The Lighter Side of Rhetorical Questions

-Howard: We need to ask you a question. - Professor Crawley: Really? Let me ask you a question. What does an accomplished entomologist with a doctorate and twenty years of experience do when the university cuts all his funding? - Rajesh: Ask uncomfortable rhetorical questions to people? (Simon Helberg, Lewis Black, and Kunal Nayyar in "The Jiminy Conjecture." The Big Bang Theory , 2008) -Penny: Sheldon, have you any idea what time it is? - Sheldon: Of course I do. My watch is linked to the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. It's accurate to one-tenth of a second. But as I'm saying this, it occurs to me that you may have again been asking a rhetorical question . (Kaley Cuoco and Jim Parsons in "The Loobenfeld Decay." The Big Bang Theory , 2008) -Dr. Cameron: Why did you hire me? - Dr. House: Does it matter? - Dr. Cameron: Kind of hard to work for a guy who doesn't respect you. - Dr. House: Why? - Dr. Cameron: Is that rhetorical ? - Dr. House: No, it just seems that way because you can't think of an answer. ( House, M.D. ) "I forget, which day did God create all the fossils?" (An anti-creationism bumper sticker, cited by Jack Bowen in If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers . Random House, 2010) Grandma Simpson and Lisa are singing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" ("How many roads must a man walk down/Before you call him a man?"). Homer overhears and says, "Eight!" -Lisa: "That was a rhetorical question !" -Homer: "Oh. Then, seven!" -Lisa: "Do you even know what 'rhetorical' means?" -Homer: "Do I know what 'rhetorical' means?" ( The Simpsons , "When Grandma Simpson Returns")

  • What Is a Rhetorical Question? Definition and Examples
  • Question Mark Definition and Examples
  • Homer Simpson's Figures of Speech
  • An Introduction to Declarative Questions
  • Direct Question in Grammar
  • Anthypophora and Rhetoric
  • epimone (rhetoric)
  • Definition and Examples of Sarcasm
  • Pathos in Rhetoric
  • Rhetorical Questions for English Learners
  • Paralepsis (Rhetoric)
  • Socratic Dialogue (Argumentation)
  • Interrobang (Punctuation)
  • Interrogative Sentences
  • Quotes from Shakespeare Plays
  • Persuasion and Rhetorical Definition

Literary Devices

Literary devices, terms, and elements, rhetorical question, definition of rhetorical question.

A rhetorical question is a question that is asked not to get an answer, but instead to emphasize a point. The word “rhetorical” signifies that the question is meant as a figure of speech. Though no answer is necessary for rhetorical questions, they are often used to elicit thought and understanding on the part of the listener or reader.

Rhetorical questions can work in several different ways, though the definition of rhetorical question remains the same. A rhetorical question may be intended as a challenge for which there is no answer or for which the answer is very difficult to come across. On the other hand, some rhetorical questions have such obvious answers that they are meant to emphasize how obvious the answer to a previous questions was. For example, if person A asked person B, “Are you going to John’s party?” and person B was definitely going, he might respond “Is rain wet?” Rhetorical questions can also raise doubt, such as in, “All was calm. Or was it?”

Common Examples of Rhetorical Question

There are many examples of rhetorical questions in famous speeches. Orators often use rhetorical questions to emphasize an important point or to prompt listeners to imagine the answer. One of the most famous examples of this strategy is from Sojourner Truth’s speech “Ain’t I a woman?”:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

–Sojourner Truth, speech delivered at 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio

Rhetorical questions can also be used humorously. The character of Chandler on the TV show Friends often used rhetorical questions as his main source of humor:

Rachel: Guess what, guess what? Chandler: Let’s see, the fifth dentist caved, now they all recommend trident?
Joey (making fun of Chandler): I’m Chandler. Could I BE wearing any more clothes?

We also use rhetorical questions in common speech, such as the following statements:

  • Sure, why not?
  • Does it look like I care?
  • Are you kidding me?
  • Do birds fly?
  • Is the sky blue?

Significance of Rhetorical Question in Literature

When used in literature, rhetorical questions may signify that a character is having a dialogue with himself or herself, and considering different options. In the famous speech from Shakespeare’s Hamlet , Hamlet begins “To be or not to be – that is the question.” In this case, Hamlet is sincerely weighing the benefits and costs of staying alive. (Note that not all rhetorical questions end with a question mark, as in this case). Rhetorical questions may also prompt the reader to further consider different theoretical possibilities, such as in Example #4 below.

Examples of Rhetorical Question in Literature

JULIET: Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet… ( Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

Shakespeare used many rhetorical questions in his plays and poems. In these rhetorical question examples, Juliet wonders aloud the meaning of a name. She is not asking for an answer, but instead emphasizing the frustration she has that it is only a name that separates her from her greatest love.

Yossarian attended the education sessions because he wanted to find out why so many people were working so hard to kill him. A handful of other men were also interested, and the questions were many and good when Clevinger and the subversive corporal finished and made the mistake of asking if there were any. “Who is Spain?” “Why is Hitler?” “When is right?”

( Catch-22 by Joseph Heller)

This example of rhetorical question is meant to highlight the absurdity of war. The character of Clevinger asks if there are any questions, and the soldiers in Yossarian’s troop ask questions for which there are no answers. They do this to irritate the men who are higher in command, but also to bring attention to the fact that nothing ever really makes sense during wartime, and the reality of their lives is just as absurd as their questions.

`Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. `I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, `so I can’t take more.’ `You mean you can’t take  less ,’ said the Hatter: `it’s very easy to take  more  than nothing.’ `Nobody asked  your  opinion,’ said Alice. `Who’s making personal remarks now?’ the Hatter asked triumphantly.

( Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

Lewis Carroll used many rhetorical devices in Alice in Wonderland , especially when Alice encounters the Mad Hatter. In this rhetorical question example, the Mad Hatter says “Who’s making personal remarks now?” to insinuate that Alice is being the rude one of the group.

What happens to a dream deferred?   Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?   Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.   Or does it explode?

(“Harlem” by Langston Hughes)

The many rhetorical questions in Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” ultimately ask the reader to consider the possible implications of the primary question—“what happens to a dream deferred?” The reader may consider dreams deferred in his or her own life and compare the different metaphors with their own experiences.

That spring, in the bustle of grooming and riding and shoeing, I remember I let him go to a neighbor I thought was a friend, and the following   fall she sold him down the river. Oh Jack, tethered in what rough stall alone did you remember that one good winter?

(“Jack” by Maxine Kumin)

Maxine Kumin’s poem “Jack” concerns a horse she once owned. The poem describes a winter in which Jack, the horse, had everything he could want—warm stables, plenty of food. The final line of the poem in which Kumin asks, “did you remember that one good winter?” is tragic in that it shows her grief and remorse for letting him go. She is asking this question only to try to bring comfort to herself.

Test Your Knowledge of Rhetorical Question

1. Which of the following statements is the best rhetorical question definition? A. A figure of speech for which no answer is necessary. B. A falsehood meant to confuse the reader or listener. C. A question for which there are numerous answers.

What is the function of the following rhetorical question from Shakespeare’s “ Sonnet 18”?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

A. Shakespeare wasn’t sure if a summer’s day was an appropriate comparison , and wanted validation that it would be a good metaphor . B. This first line of the sonnet proposes a possible metaphor for the author’s beloved, and the rest of the sonnet carries out the implications of this possibility. C. The lover described in the poem is so clearly the opposite of a summer day that the comparison is laughable.

3. Which of the questions in this dialogue from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a rhetorical question?

What did they draw?’ said Alice, quite forgetting her promise. `Treacle,’ said the Dormouse, without considering at all this time. Alice did not wish to offend the Dormouse again, so she began very cautiously: `But I don’t understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?’ `You can draw water out of a water-well,’ said the Hatter; `so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well—eh, stupid?’

A. “What did they draw?” B. “Where did they draw the treacle from?” C. “Eh, stupid?”

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Intro and Conclusion

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the objectives and components of a speech introduction.
  • Identify the objectives and components of a speech conclusion.


  • A speaker should do the following in the introduction of a speech: get the audience’s attention, introduce the topic, establish credibility and relevance, and preview the main points.

» Watch this video at 1.25x playback speed:

We all know that first impressions matter. First impressions are quickly formed, sometimes spontaneous, and involve little to no cognitive effort. Your introduction is only a fraction of your speech, but in that first minute or so, your audience decides whether or not they are interested in listening to the rest of the speech. There are four objectives that you should accomplish in your introduction. They include getting your audience’s attention, introducing your topic, establishing credibility and relevance, and previewing your main points.

Step 1 of Introduction: Getting Your Audience’s Attention

There are several strategies you can use to get your audience’s attention. Ensure your attention-getter is appropriate, meaning that it’s unusual enough to get people interested—but not over the top—and relevant to your speech topic. Here are some common ways to grab the audience’s attention in a persuasive speech.

Cite a Startling Fact or Statistic

As you research your topic, take note of any information that defies your expectations or surprises you. If you have a strong reaction to something you learn, your audience may, too. When using a startling fact or statistic as an attention getter, it’s important to get the most bang for your buck. You can do this by sharing more than one fact or statistic that builds up the audience’s interest. When using numbers, it’s also good to repeat and/or repackage the statistics so they stick in the audience’s mind, which you can see in the following example:

“In 1994, sixteen states reported that 15–19 percent of their population was considered obese. Every other state reported obesity rates less than that. In 2010, every single state had at least a 20 percent obesity rate. In just six years, we went from no states with an obesity rate higher than 19 percent, to fifty.”

Use a Quotation

Some quotations are attention getting and some are boring. Some quotations are relevant and moving and some are abstract and stale. If you choose to open your speech with a quotation, choose one that is attention getting, relevant, and moving. The following example illustrates some tips for using a quote to start a speech: “‘The most important question in the world is ‘Why is the child crying?’’ This quote from author Alice Walker is at the heart of my speech today. Too often, people see children suffering at the hands of bullies and do nothing about it until it’s too late. That’s why I believe that all public schools should adopt a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.”

Notice that the quote is delivered first in the speech, then the source of the quote is cited. Since the quote, like a starting fact or statistic just discussed, is the attention-getting part, it’s better to start with that than the citation. Next, the speaker explains why the quote is relevant to the speech. Just because a quote seems relevant to you doesn’t mean the audience will also pick up on that relevance.

Ask a Question

A rhetorical question is different from a direct question. When a speaker asks a direct question, they actually want a response from their audience. A rhetorical question is designed to elicit a mental response from the audience, not a verbal or nonverbal one. In short, a rhetorical question makes an audience think. Asking a direct question of your audience is warranted only if the speaker plans on doing something with the information they get from the audience. For example, you might ask “By a show of hands, how many people have taken public transportation in the past week?” The speaker will then incorporate the responses into the speech by pointing out that public transportation is important.

A safer bet is to ask a rhetorical question that elicits only a mental response. A good rhetorical question can get the audience primed to think about the content of the speech. The following is a series of rhetorical questions used in a speech against the testing of cosmetics on animals: “Was the toxicity of the shampoo you used this morning tested on the eyes of rabbits? Would you let someone put a cosmetic in your dog’s eye to test its toxicity level? Have you ever thought about how many products that you use every day are tested on animals?” Make sure you pause after your rhetorical question to give the audience time to think.

Tell a Story

When you tell a story, whether in the introduction to your speech or not, you should aim to paint word pictures in the minds of your audience members. You might tell a story from your own life or recount a story you found in your research. You may also use a hypothetical story, which has the advantage of allowing you to use your creativity and help place your audience in unusual situations that neither you nor they have actually experienced. When using a hypothetical story, you should let your audience know it’s not real, and you should present a story that the audience can relate to. Speakers often let the audience know a story is not real by starting with the word imagine . As I noted, a hypothetical example can allow you to speak beyond the experience of you and your audience members by having them imagine themselves in unusual circumstances. For example, “Think of someone you really care about. Visualize that person in your mind. Now, imagine that days and weeks go by and you haven’t heard from that person. Weeks turn into months and years, and you have no idea if they are alive or dead.” The speaker could go on to compare that scenario to the experiences of friends and family of prisoners of war. While we may not be able to imagine being held captive for years, we all know what it’s like to experience uncertainty regarding the safety of a loved one.

Step 2 of Introduction: Introducing the Topic

Introducing the topic  of your speech is the most obvious objective of an introduction, but speakers sometimes forget to do this or do not do it clearly. Sometimes a speech topic doesn’t become obvious until the middle of a speech. By that time, however, it’s easy to lose an audience that didn’t get clearly told the topic of the speech in the introduction.  The following example introduces an argument about childhood obesity: “Childhood obesity is a serious problem facing our country and today I’ll persuade you that childhood obesity is a problem that can no longer be ignored.”

Step 3 of Introduction: Establishing Credibility

The way you write and deliver your introduction makes an important first impression on your audience. But you can also take a moment in your introduction to explicitly set up your credibility in relation to your speech topic. If you have training, expertise, or credentials (e.g., a degree, certificate, etc.) relevant to your topic, you can share that with your audience. It may also be appropriate to mention firsthand experience, previous classes you have taken, or even a personal interest related to your topic.

Step 4 of Introduction: Thesis and Preview of Main Points

Begin by stating your thesis clearly and directly. The preview of main points is usually the last sentence of your introduction and serves as a map of what’s to come in the speech.  Your preview should be one sentence, should include wording that is parallel to the key wording of your main points in the body of your speech, and should preview your main points in the same order you discuss them in your speech. The following example previews the main points for a speech on childhood obesity: “Today I’ll convey the seriousness of the obesity epidemic among children by reviewing common health problems associated with the disease, pinpoint the key cause of obesity, and outline steps we can take to combat this issue.”


How you conclude a speech leaves an impression on your audience. There are three important objectives to accomplish in the conclusion of a persuasive speech. They include restating your thesis, a call-to-action, and closing with a “clincher.”

» Watch this video at 1.25x playback speed:

Restatement of the Thesis

Restating a thesis statement is the first step in a powerful conclusion. When we restate the thesis statement at the conclusion of our speech, we’re attempting to reemphasize what the overarching main idea of the speech has been. Suppose your thesis statement was, “Childhood obesity is a serious problem and we must regulate the fast food industry to protect our children.’” You could restate the thesis in this fashion at the conclusion of your speech: “In the past few minutes, I have shown that the fast food industry must be regulated in order to protect our children from rising obesity rates.”  Restating the thesis in your conclusion reminds the audience of the major purpose or goal of your speech, helping them remember it better.


Probably the most common persuasive concluding device is the appeal for action or the call-to-action. In essence, the appeal for action occurs when a speaker asks the audience to engage in a specific behavior. Whether the speaker appeals for people to eat more fruit, buy a car, vote for a candidate, oppose the death penalty, or sing more in the shower, the speaker is asking the audience to engage in action.

One specific type of appeal for action is the immediate call to action . Whereas some appeals ask for people to engage in behavior in the future, the immediate call to action asks people to engage in behavior right now. If a speaker wants to see a new traffic light placed at a dangerous intersection, he or she may conclude by asking all the audience members to sign a digital petition right then and there. Here are some more examples of immediate calls to action:

  • In a speech on petitioning a lawmaker for a new law, provide audience members with a pre-written e-mail they can send to the lawmaker.
  • In a speech asking for donations for a charity, send a box around the room asking for donations.

These immediate calls to action may not lead to long-term change, but they can be very effective at increasing the likelihood that an audience will change their behavior.

Closing Your Speech with a “Clincher”

Like the attention-getter, your closing statement is an opportunity for you to exercise your creativity as a speaker. Many students have difficulty wrapping up the speech with a sense of closure and completeness. In terms of closure, a well-written and well-delivered closing line signals to your audience that your speech is over, which cues their applause. The closing line should relate to the overall speech and should provide some “take-away” message that may leave an audience thinking or propel them to action. A sample closing line could be “For your health, for our children’s health, and for our country’s health, we must take steps to address childhood obesity today.” You can also bring your audience full-circle by referring back to the introduction in the closing of your speech. For example, you may finish an illustration or answer a rhetorical question you started in the introduction.

Key Takeaways

  • A speaker should do the following in the conclusion of a persuasive speech: restate the thesis, add an urgent call-to-action, and provide closure.
  • Draft the opening and closing lines of your speech. Remember to tap into your creativity to try to engage the audience. Is there any way you can tie the introduction and conclusion together to create a “ribbon and bow” for your speech?

Lass-Hennemann, J., Linn K. Kuehl, André Schulz, Melly S. Oitzl, and Hartmut Schachinger, “Stress Strengthens Memory of First Impressions of Others’ Positive Perosnality Traits,” PLoS ONE 6, no. 1 (2011): 1.

Laws, E. L., Jennifer M. Apperson, Stephanie Buchert, and Norman J. Bregman, “Student Evaluations of Instruction: When Are Enduring First Impressions Formed?” North American Journal of Psychology 12, no. 1 (2010): 81.

Monroe, A. H., and Douglas Ehninger, Principles of Speech , 5th brief ed. (Chicago, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1964).

Winans, J. A., Public Speaking (New York: Century, 1917), 411.

Rhetoric and Persuasion Copyright © by cwilliams1 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.


Should you use Rhetoric Questions in an Essay?

Rhetorical questions are questions asked to make a point or to create a dramatic effect rather than to get an answer.

Many college professors discourage using rhetorical questions in essays, and the majority agree that they can be used only in specific circumstances.

While they are helpful for the person writing an essay, if you want to include them in an essay, ensure that you rephrase them into a sentence, indirect question, or statement.

It is essential to say that there is only minimal space for including rhetorical questions in academic writing.

This post will help you discover why professors discourage using rhetorical questions in essays and when it is okay to use them. Let's dive in!

Why do professors discourage the use of rhetorical questions in academic papers?

We love rhetorical questions for the flair they add to written pieces. They help authors achieve some sense of style when writing essays. However, since they have an obvious answer, no answer, or require no answer, they have no place in academic writing, not even the essay hooks. They are a way to engage the audience by letting them keep thinking of the answer as they read through your text. Avoid using rhetorical essays in academic writing unless you are doing creative writing. There is no room for suspense in academic writing. Let’s find out why professors discourage them so badly in any form of academic writing, not just essay writing alone!

1. Because they don't belong in academic writing

Rhetorical questions are awesome; they can help engage your readers and keep them interested in your writing. However, they are only perfect for creative writing, diaries, and blogs and are not appropriate for academic writing. This is because academic writing is about logic, facts, and arguments, while rhetorical questions are about entertainment. The two are incompatible; the questions do not belong in academic writing.

Rhetorical questions are typically utilized in creative writing to create flair and suspense. However, academic writing does not need flair or suspense. Because most academic writing assignments are based on facts, evidence, arguments, and analysis. Thus, there is no need for the creation of flair or suspense. In other words, there is no space for rhetorical questions in academic writing.

Another thing that shows that rhetorical questions don't belong in academic writing is that they are usually written in the first person. The fact that they are written in the first person means they do not fit in academic writing, where students are usually urged to write in the third person. So while it is okay for rhetorical questions to feature in creative writing where the author addresses the reader, it is not okay for the questions to feature in academic writing where everything should be matter-of-fact.

Lastly, rhetorical questions do not belong in academic writing because readers of academic works do not expect to see them. When you start reading an academic paper, you expect answers, and you don't expect suspense, flair, or entertainment. Therefore, you will most likely be confused and even upset when you see rhetorical questions in an academic paper.

2. Because they come across as passive

When writing an academic paper as a student, you are expected to show your mastery of the content; you are expected to demonstrate your command of the content. What you are not likely to do is to pose rhetorical questions, and this is because the questions are passive and, therefore, unsuitable for academic papers. Specifically, passive voice is unsuitable for academic papers because it is dull and lazy. What is appropriate and recommended for academic papers is active voice, and this is because it is clear and concise.

You now know why you should not use passive rhetorical questions in academic papers. Another reason why you should not use passive rhetorical questions is that they will make you sound as if you are unsure of yourself. If you are sure about the points and arguments you are making in your paper, you will not ask passive rhetorical questions. Instead, you will develop your paper confidently from the introduction to the conclusion.                  

When you ask your readers passive rhetorical questions, you will make them Google or think about the answer. These are not the things that readers want to be doing when reading academic papers. They want to see well-developed ideas and arguments and be informed, inspired, and educated. Thus, you should spare them the need to do things they do not plan to do by not using rhetorical questions in your academic paper.

3. Because they are seen as padding

When your professor sees a rhetorical question in your essay, they will think you are just trying to fill the minimum word count. In other words, they will think you are trying to cheat the system by filling the word count with an unnecessary sentence. This could lead to you getting penalized, which you do not want for your essay if you are aiming for a top grade.

Why do professors see rhetorical questions as padding? Well, it is because struggling students are the ones who typically use rhetorical questions in their essays. Therefore, when professors see these questions, they assume that the student struggled to meet the word count, so they throw in a few rhetorical questions.            

4. Because they are hard to get right

It is not easy to ask rhetorical questions correctly, especially in essays. This is because there are several things to consider when asking them, including the location, the words, the punctuation, and the answer. Most of the time, when students ask rhetorical questions in their papers, professors roll their eyes because most students ask them wrong.

The correct way to ask a rhetorical question is to ask it in the right place, in the right way, and to use the correct punctuation. You will discover how to do these things in the second half of this post. Don't just ask a rhetorical question for the sake of it; ask only when necessary.

5. Because professors hate them

If the other reasons why professors discourage rhetorical questions have not convinced you to give up on using them, this one should. Professors hate rhetorical questions, and they don't like them because they feel the questions don't belong in academic papers. Therefore, when you use them, you risk irking your professor and increasing your likelihood of getting a lower grade. So if you don't want a lower grade, you should give rhetorical questions a wide berth.

Your professor might love rhetorical questions. However, including rhetorical questions in your essay is a risk you do not want to take. Because your hunch about them liking rhetorical questions might be wrong, resulting in a bad grade for you.

When to use rhetorical questions in academic papers

You now know professors do not like seeing rhetorical questions in academic papers. However, this does not mean you cannot use them. There are situations when it is okay to use rhetorical questions in your academic papers. Below you will discover the instances when it is appropriate to use rhetorical questions in your essays.

1. When introducing your essay

When introducing your essay, you must try to grab the reader's attention with your first two or three sentences. The best way to do this is to use a hook statement – an exciting statement that makes the reader want to read the rest of the paper to find out more. And the best way to write a hook statement is as a rhetorical question.

When you write your hook statement as a rhetorical question, you will make your reader think about the question and the topic before they continue to read your introduction . This will most likely pique their interest in the topic and make them want to read the rest of your essay.

Therefore, instead of starting your essay with a dull and ordinary hook statement, you should start it with a powerful rhetorical question. This will undoubtedly hook your reader. Below is a good example of a rhetorical question hook statement:

Where could the world be without the United Nations?

Starting your essay with the question above will definitely hook any reader and give the reader an idea of the angle you want to take in your essay.

2. When you want to evoke emotions

Most academic papers are supposed to be written in the third person and should also be emotionless, well-organized, and to the point. However, there are some that can be written in the first person. Good examples of such essays include personal essays and reflective essays.

When you are writing personal essays, it is okay to express emotions. And one of the best ways to do it is by using rhetorical questions. These questions are perfect for evoking emotions because they make the reader think and reflect. And making your reader think and reflect is an excellent way to make them relate to your story.

The most appropriate way to use rhetorical questions to evoke emotions is to make your questions target specific feelings such as rage, hope, happiness, sadness, and so on. Targeted questions will help your reader think about certain things and feelings, which will undoubtedly influence what they will feel thereafter. Below is an excellent example of a rhetorical question used to evoke emotions:

Doesn't everyone deserve to be free?

This question makes you feel compassion for those who are not free and makes you think about them and the things they are going through.

3. When you want to emphasize something

Using a rhetorical question to emphasize a point is okay, especially in a personal essay. The right way to do this is to make the statement you want to highlight and ask a rhetorical question immediately after. Emphasizing a statement using a rhetorical question will help drive your message home, and it will also help leave an impact on the reader. Below is an excellent example of a rhetorical question used to emphasize the statement before it:

Nearly 1000 racehorses die or get injured every year. Is the killing and maiming of horses justified in this age of cars and underground trains?

The rhetorical question above brings into sharp focus the statement about the number of horses killed yearly and makes the reader think about the number of horses killed or injured annually.

4. When you want to make a smooth transition

One of the best ways to transition from one topic to the next is by using a rhetorical question. It is essential to transition smoothly from one point to the next if you want your essay to have an excellent flow.

A rhetorical question can help you to make a smooth transition from one point to the next by alerting the reader to a new topic. Below is an excellent example of a rhetorical question used to make a smooth transition from one paragraph to the next:

Did you know malaria remains one of Africa's leading causes of infant mortality? The tropical disease accounted for over half a million infant deaths in 2020.

The statement above smartly alerts the reader about a new topic and introduces it in a smooth and calculated manner.

Mistakes to avoid when using rhetorical questions

If you decide to use rhetorical questions in your essays, there are some mistakes you should avoid.

1. Overusing them

Using rhetorical questions in academic papers is okay, but you should never overuse them. The number of rhetorical questions in your essay should never exceed two, and more than two rhetorical questions are just too many for an essay.

2. Using them in research papers

Research papers are the most formal of academic papers. Most professors who give research paper assignments do not fancy seeing rhetorical questions in them. Therefore, you should never use rhetorical questions in research papers.

3. Never use them as your thesis statement

Your thesis statement should be a statement that is logical, concise, and complete. It should never be a question, let alone a rhetorical one.

As you have discovered in this article, rhetorical questions should ideally not be used in essays. This is because they do not belong, professors hate them, and so on. However, as you have also discovered, there are some situations when it is okay to use rhetorical questions. In other words, you can use rhetorical questions in the right circumstances. The fact that you now know these circumstances should enable you to use rhetorical questions in your essays, if necessary, correctly.

You should talk to us if you are too busy to write your essay or edit it to make it professional enough. Our company provides both essay writing and essay editing services at affordable rates. Contact us today for assistance or simply order your essay using our essay order page.

What are rhetorical questions?

Rhetorical questions are questions asked to make a point rather than to get an answer. They are often used in creative writing to create a dramatic effect or a sense of suspense.

When and how to use rhetorical questions in essays

Professors hate rhetorical questions in essays . You should only use them sparingly and when necessary. Otherwise, you should not use them at all.

What mistakes should you avoid when using rhetorical questions in essays?

You should never use a rhetorical question instead of a good thesis statement . You should also never use a rhetorical question in a research paper.

rhetorical question to end an essay

Gradecrest is a professional writing service that provides original model papers. We offer personalized services along with research materials for assistance purposes only. All the materials from our website should be used with proper references. See our Terms of Use Page for proper details.

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Rhetorical Questions: 30 Effective Examples and Definition

Oct 24, 2023

Rhetorical Questions: 30 Effective Examples and Definition

Rhetorical questions, in particular, possess the unique ability to captivate, engage, and provoke thought. Whether you’re a seasoned orator, a writer, or someone simply looking to enhance their persuasive skills, this article is your definitive guide to mastering this impactful technique. Delve into the world of rhetoric and discover how these 30 examples and expert tips can elevate your communication to new heights.

What Are Rhetorical Questions?

Rhetorical questions are a powerful tool in the realm of persuasive communication. They are a form of interrogative expression used to make a point or convey a message rather than to elicit a direct response. These questions are crafted with a specific intention, often to provoke thought, engage the audience, or emphasize a particular idea. Here’s a clear and easy-to-understand explanation of rhetorical questions:

Rhetorical questions are inquiries posed in conversation or writing that do not require or expect an actual answer. Instead, they serve as a persuasive or rhetorical device, designed to make a statement, emphasize a point, or provoke critical thinking in the audience.

The biggest difference between rhetorical questions and typical questions in that rhetorical questions are not used to gather information or seek a response from others. Rather, they function as a means of guiding the listener or reader’s thoughts in a particular direction. They are strategically employed to emphasize a message, create a sense of engagement, or encourage reflection.

Rhetorical questions are commonly used in persuasive speeches, essays, debates, and everyday communication to achieve various objectives. Here are a few key purposes:

Emphasis –  Rhetorical questions can draw attention to a specific idea or argument by framing it as a question. For example, “Do we want to continue down a path of destruction?” emphasizes the gravity of the situation.

Engagement –  These questions engage the audience by prompting them to consider the topic more deeply. For instance, “Have you ever wondered what the future holds?” encourages the audience to reflect on possibilities.

Affirmation –  Rhetorical questions often lead the audience to agree with the implied answer, reinforcing the speaker’s point. An example is, “Is it not our moral duty to help those in need?” which presupposes that helping others is a moral obligation.

Persuasion –  By framing an argument as a rhetorical question, the speaker can guide the audience to a specific conclusion. For instance, “Wouldn’t you agree that a healthier lifestyle leads to a happier life?” implies that the answer is yes.

30 Best Rhetorical Questions Examples

1. What’s not to love about a beautiful sunset? Rhetorical questions like this one evoke a sense of wonder and appreciation, inviting the audience to share the sentiment.

2. Are you going to let fear hold you back from your dreams? This question challenges the audience to confront their fears and consider the impact on their aspirations.

3. Do you think the world would be a better place without acts of kindness? By implying a positive response, this question emphasizes the importance of kindness in society.

4. Can you imagine a world without art and creativity? It highlights the significance of art and creativity in our lives, making the audience reflect on their value.

5. Is it possible to put a price on freedom? This question prompts reflection on the intangible value of freedom.

6. Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up. Rhetorical questions like this can be motivational, emphasizing the importance of resilience.

7. Does anyone really believe in a perfect world? It invites contemplation about the idealistic notion of a perfect society.

8. What’s more important than the health and well-being of our children? This question highlights the paramount importance of children’s welfare.

9. Could we exist without the air we breathe? It emphasizes the fundamental nature of oxygen to human existence.

10. Is there a single recipe for happiness that suits everyone? This question suggests the subjectivity of happiness and personal fulfillment.

11. Is it fair to judge a book by its cover? This age-old question prompts reflection on the issue of prejudice and superficial judgments.

12. Can you really put a price on love? This question emphasizes the idea that love is priceless and beyond monetary value .

13. Who doesn’t want to be successful in life? This question assumes that everyone desires success, making the audience ponder their own aspirations.

14. Do you think anyone would willingly choose pain over pleasure? It underlines the universal preference for pleasure and avoidance of pain.

15. Is there anything more refreshing than a cold glass of water on a hot day? This question appeals to our shared experience of relief on a scorching day.

16. What could be more comforting than the embrace of a loved one? This rhetorical question highlights the emotional value of human connection.

17. Can we really call ourselves civilized when we still wage wars? This question provokes thought about the contradiction between civilization and conflict.

18. What’s stopping you from chasing your dreams? I t encourages self-reflection and motivation to overcome obstacles.

19. Is there anything better than the sound of laughter? This question celebrates the universal joy associated with laughter.

20. How can we expect change if we never take action? It underscores the necessity of taking the initiative to bring about change.

21. Do you think the world would be the same without great leaders? This question underscores the impact of influential leaders throughout history.

22. What would life be without a sense of humor? It highlights the role of humor in our lives, promoting its significance.

23. Is there any greater tragedy than the loss of a loved one? This question evokes empathy and reflection on the depth of human emotion.

24. Can you really put a limit on human potential? It challenges the idea of constraining human capabilities.

25. What could be more fundamental than the pursuit of knowledge? This rhetorical question emphasizes the inherent human curiosity and thirst for knowledge.

26. Can you imagine a world without hope? It prompts reflection on the importance of hope in people’s lives.

27. Is there any greater bond than the love between a parent and child? This question celebrates the profound connection between parents and their children.

28. What would life be without challenges to overcome? It highlights the role of adversity in personal growth and development.

29. Is there a more powerful force than the unity of a community? This question emphasizes the strength of community and solidarity .

30. Who would trade the beauty of nature for a concrete jungle? It encourages reflection on the value of preserving natural environments

Why People Use Rhetorical Questions?

Rhetorical questions serve various compelling purposes. Foremost among these is their ability to engage the audience or reader. They break the monotony of one-way communication and encourage active participation, thereby infusing the conversation or written text with dynamism and interactivity. Rhetorical questions also double as persuasive tools since they often imply a specific answer or point of view, subtly guiding the audience to consider the speaker or writer’s perspective.

Moreover, rhetorical questions can stimulate thought and critical thinking, encouraging individuals to ponder complex issues or view a subject from multiple angles. They possess the remarkable capacity to evoke emotions, eliciting empathy, curiosity, or reflection by framing an issue in a relatable manner. Additionally, rhetorical questions can be effectively employed to emphasize key points, rendering them memorable, and drawing attention to the essential aspects of a message.

Tips On How to Make Good Rhetorical Questions

  • Consider your audience’s interests, values, and knowledge. Pattern your questions to resonate with their experiences and perspectives.
  • Ensure your question is clear and concise . A complex question may confuse your audience and weaken the impact of your message.
  • Rhetorical questions should stimulate thought. Make questions that encourage your audience to reflect on the subject matter.
  • Rhetorical questions often imply an answer . Ensure that this answer connects with your intended message or argument.
  • Use rhetorical questions to evoke emotions . Appeal to your audience’s feelings to make your message more impactful.
  • Ensure that your rhetorical question is directly related to the topic at hand. Irrelevant questions can disrupt the flow of your communication.
  • Don’t overuse rhetorical questions. Use them strategically to emphasize key points or engage your audience when necessary.
  • While rhetorical questions can be powerful, using too many can lessen their impact. Use them sparingly for maximum effect.
  • Some questions can be more complex, but be mindful of your audience’s ability to engage with the topic. Balance between simple and hard questions as needed.
  • Crafting effective rhetorical questions is a skill that improves with Seeking feedback from peers or mentors to refine your use of rhetorical questions in your communication.

Upon discussing the key points about rhetorical questions, we learned that: the art of using rhetorical questions is a powerful tool in communication. As we’ve explored in this discussion, rhetorical questions can captivate your audience, prompt reflection, and enhance the impact of your message. By understanding your audience, tailoring your questions, and using them strategically, you can become a more persuasive and engaging communicator. Whether you’re delivering a speech, writing an essay, or simply engaging in a meaningful conversation, the use of rhetorical questions can elevate your communication to a new level. So, the next time you seek to make a point, inspire, or provoke thought, consider the art of the rhetorical question, and watch the power of your words come to life.

Read More: 10 Biggest Philosophical Dilemmas Examples

Read also: 30 Effective Guiding Questions Examples

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When and How to Write a Rhetorical Question

  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write a Rhetorical Question

How to Write a Rhetorical Question

It’s best not to set out with the goal of writing a rhetorical question – that’s likely to make them sound forced. Instead, just try to write naturally, just as you would speak, and notice when the rhetorical questions appear.

The exception to this is when you’re writing an aporia to transition between steps in an argument (see section 6). In this case, you should:

  • Think about what question the section is trying to answer
  • Then simply phrase it as a question rather than a sentence. The question should be direct so that the reader knows exactly where you’re going in the argument.

When to Use Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are found in all forms of literature, from poetry to philosophy to history. However, there are a few places where rhetorical questions are especially helpful:

Formal Essays

  • In the transitions between sections. We’ll see an example in the next section
  • Introductions . A good essay should raise a question and then answer it through argument. So it can be very effective in the introduction. Raise a rhetorical question, and then use your thesis statement to answer the question.

Creative Writing

  • The opening and transitions of speeches . A good speech is often structured a lot like an essay, so you might want to have the orator (speaker) begin with a rhetorical question that he or she will then go on to make a speech about.
  • Opening Sentence . In writing a novel or short story, the opening sentence is often the hardest thing to write. So experiment with rhetorical questions here. Can you come up with a question that gives the reader a hint of what the story is going to be about, what its major themes are, etc.?

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

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Can I Use Rhetorical Questions in an Essay (Quick Answer)

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by  Antony W

November 1, 2021


A rhetorical question is a powerful literary technique that lets you make a point or add a dramatic effect in an essay.

Unlike a standard question, being rhetoric doesn’t evoke direct response. Rather, it tends to be persuasive in form, and it helps an author shape the way his or her target readers look at an issue or think about a topic.

Given the diversity and flair they add in writing, and the extent to which the engage readers to consider and hypothesize what they just read, can you really use rhetorical questions in an essay or should you avoid them completely?

Can I Use Rhetorical Questions in an Essay?  

It’s not advisable to use rhetorical questions in an essay. While they are perfect for helping you come to grip with the essay topic in question, they’re not useful for the person reading the essay. 

You could include them in the essay as indirect questions, but the best approach is to rephrase the questions into statements or not use them at all. 

To understand why teachers hate rhetorical questions in essays, it’s important to look at the difference between creative and essay writing.

As you can see from the table above, rhetoric questions seek to spark excitement and suspense, which is the exact opposite of what academic writing is all about.

To take this even further, below are reasons why you shouldn’t use rhetorical question in academic writing.

1. Rhetorical Questions Add Unnecessary Words to an Essay 

You don’t have much writing real estate when writing an essay. With a tight word count limit, rhetorical equations are an obvious waste of resources.

Again, questions don’t tell a story, describe your claim, or defend your argument in an essay. And rightly so, they tend to leave readers with more questions than answers. 

2. Rhetorical Questions Introduce Redundancy 

You might think for the moment that rhetorical questions are good for introducing a point. But isn’t it better to get to the point?

Besides, we don’t think that essay readers, from college admissions committee to professors who have dozens of argumentative essays to review even have the patience to read questions you present.

The issue here is rhetorical questions introduce redundancy in the essay, taking up the space that you have otherwise used to explain an idea or an issue better.

Instead of filling the essay with questions, which may leave the reader unsure, go straight to the point and make your ideas clear . 

3. Rhetorical Questions Accost Readers 

Academic writing isn’t your place to ask questions because they change the tone and perspective of an essay just as quickly.

They are passive in form. In other words, using them in academic writing means you’re asking your readers to do the thinking and reflection for you

When you change from answering readers’ most important questions on an issue to questioning them instead, you accost them. Readers don’t appreciate when you aggressively demand something from them.

4. Rhetorical Questions Make Lousy Assumption that a Reader Knows 

While you’re welcome to use rhetorical questions in improving your creative writing , you shouldn’t do in academic writing.

Often with rhetorical questions, writers tend to assume that the audience already know the answer, which may not exactly be the case.

Since we don’t know if a reader knows the answer to a question, it’s best to express the question as a statement or else you risk being misunderstood.

Think about it:

Your instructor gave you an essay assignment because they want to see how you answer the question. In other words, they’re looking for answers, evidence, and arguments to your claim (position). They neither want to be entertained nor left in suspense.

How to Ask Rhetorical Question in an Essay?  

While we generally don’t recommend using rhetoric questions in an essay, there’s one exception to this rule. You can use rhetorical questions:

In the Title of an Essay 

It’s tempting to use rhetorical questions in an essay because they draw in the attention of the reader.

However, they can’t be effective in the body section of the essay, and we’ve already told you why. 

So if you feel the urge to use rhetorical questions, use it as a title for the essay.

In the Introduction of an Essay 

You may use it in the introduction provided you answer the question in the argument.

Notice here that you have to answer the question, not leave the reader to answer it for you.

An effective way to implement this literary device would be to ask the question in the opening paragraph and then use the thesis statement to answer the question before you get to the body part of the essay .

In Argumentative Essays 

Rhetorical questions can be good for persuading a reader to think or act in a certain way. As such, you may use them in writing argumentative essays .

If used correctly, such a question can often strengthen the magnitude of a claim and solidify your position.

However, you really shouldn’t include this kind of writing in your argument or persuasive essay unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Even if you feel like the rhetorical question would sound a lot more readable or convincing, it would be best to rephrase them in complete statements.

Get Essay Writing Help 

With all that said, feel free to get in touch with  Help for Assessment writers  if you need assistance with your essay writing.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.


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