What are rhetorical questions?
A rhetorical question is a question where no answer is expected or the answer is implied. They are often used to introduce an answer that the speaker will communicate. This is often the case in speeches or presentations. Some examples are:
- So what can be done about it?
- Should we not expect more?
The first question structures a discussion of solutions. The second is closed and these questions are often used by politicians and salesmen to establish a connection and agreement between themselves and the audience. It is considered an effective persuasive tool.
Why should you avoid using rhetorical questions?
Rhetorical questions are part of spoken discourse and, as seen above, designed to engage the audience, perhaps on an emotional level (i.e. I am one of you and hold the same beliefs). This type of rhetorical persuasion is not what academic writing seeks to promote. Instead, readers should be persuaded by the evidence and depth of reasoning presented.
How can you avoid using rhetorical questions?
The question can either be deleted or rephrased as a statement. For example:
- So, what can be done about it? = One measure to address the issue is …
- Should we not expect more? = I would delete this and make a specific claim