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:
- 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.
- 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.?