How to Use Rhetorical Questions in an Essay
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. Well, this literary technique certainly worked here because the speech does manage to move us and pushes us to think.
Writers have been incorporating rhetorical questions for centuries together. So, why not take an inspiration or two and include them in your college essays too?
A rhetorical question is a question asked more to create an impact or make a statement rather than getting an answer. It is a powerful literary device which when used effectively can add immense value to your writing.
Here is How You Can Incorporate Rhetorical Questions in Your Essay to Draw the Reader's Attention
Wondering how to use rhetorical questions? Here are 4 ways to tactfully use them to take your writing a notch higher and make your essays more thought-provoking.
We all know how important it is to start your essay with an interesting hook that grabs the reader’s attention and manages to keep 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 give an indication of where you are headed with the essay. Instead of starting your essay with a dull, boring statement, posing a question to make a point is a lot more striking.
What is the world without art?
Starting you 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 have been a dreary place without art.
When you manage to trigger an emotional response and strike a chord with the reader, that is when your writing is considered to be truly effective.
Whether it’s evoking feelings of joy, sadness, rage, hope or disgust – using rhetorical questions does manage to stir the kind of 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 agreement, using rhetorical questions to garner that response is a good idea which is exactly why they are commonly used in persuasive essays.
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.
Emphasize on a Point
Making a statement and following it up with a rhetorical question is a smart way to emphasize on it and drive the message home. It can be a disturbing statistic, 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.
In fact, sometimes, rather than saying it as a statement, inserting a question leaves a greater impact.
Between 700 and 800 racehorses are injured and die every year, with a national average of about two breakdowns for every 1,000 starts. How many more horses will 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.
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. The essay needs to flow in logically while staying within the topic. Now, this is a tricky skill and not many get it right.
Using rhetorical questions is one way you can connect paragraphs and maintain the cohesiveness in writing. You can pose questions when you want to introduce a new point or conclude a point and emphasize on it.
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 a smart way to introduce the reason and then go on to explain it.
While rhetorical questions are effective literary devices, it is important to use them sparingly. You cannot be throwing questions one after the other, thinking they will do the trick.
That’s not it works because you will just end up cluttering your essay with questions. Instead, you should know when using a rhetorical question is worthwhile and if it adds value to the piece of writing.
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