Country Reports













































Lesson 34: Rhetorical Questions

Do you know what a rhetorical question is?

A rhetorical question is a question that does not expect an answer. Rhetorical questions are used, instead, to grab someone's attention or to convince someone that something is true. The first sentence of this lesson is a rehtorical question. Here is another example:

Are you tired of cafeteria food? It's greasy and unhealthy. Students deserve better lunches!


Rhetorical questions fit nicely into essays, in many different locations. For example, you could start your essay with a rhetorical question:

Are you looking for a place to go on vacation? Then you should consider Barbados. The beaches are beautiful; the food is delicious, and the people are friendly. Barabdos is a terrific vacation destination.


A rhetorical questions could also serve as a topic sentence:

Do you like beaches? Then you will love the beaches of Barbados! In fact, Barbados has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world (Smith). You can swim in crystal blue waters or simply relax in the tropical sun.


A rhetorical sentence might also serve as the "wrap" of a body paragraph.


Second, Barbadoes is known for its beautiful beaches. In fact, Barbadoes has "some of the most beautiful beaches in the world" (Smith). Wouldn't you love to lay on a beach, soaking up the tropical sun?



A rhetorical question could also work well in your conclusion:


Doesn't Barbados sound like a wonderful place? The beaches are beautiful, the people are friendly, and the food is delicious. You should plan your Barbados vacation today!



The problem is that rhetorical questions are so convenient that many writers overuse them. For this reason, they have gotten something of a bad reputation.

Writing teachers often tell their students. "Don't use rhetorical questions! Just make your point! Instead of writing: "Are you sick of the food in the cafeteria?" just write: "The food in the cafeteria is horrible!"

That's not bad advice. However, it's probably also true that rhetorical questions are not as bad as some teachers make them out to be, even if some students do tend to overuse them.

In an attempt to strike a balance, here is a new rule (for Mr. Hall's essays).

Lesson Steps


Do you have more than one rhetorical question in your paper?

  • Take all but one out.
  • Replace the questions with declarative sentences, as necessary.
2. Congratulations! You're done with this lesson.