A rhetorical question is a figure of speech that comes in the form of a question that makes a point instead of seeking an answer. A rhetorical question may have a clear answer, which the person asking it probably already knows, but the questioner asks it to emphasize the point.
In literature, a rhetorical question is evident and used for style as an impressive persuasive device. Rhetorical questions are often used in persuasive texts as they directly appeal to the reader’s agreement and usually discuss well-known facts.
Different Types of Rhetorical Questions
Before we can look at a few examples and analyze rhetorical question effects in writing, there are three primary rhetorical questions that your little ones can learn to use in writing. These include:
Anthypophora: Anthypophora is also sometimes referred to as hypophora.
Erotesis: Erotesis is a kind of rhetorical question that we most commonly see in speeches and other persuasive writing.
Epiplexis: These rhetorical questions are used to revoke the credibility of the fact of point of view.
While children won’t need to, or be expected to, know these tricky terms, it’s still beneficial for them to know that we can ask rhetorical questions in several different ways!
What is an Example of a Rhetorical Question?
Now that we understand what rhetorical questions are and some of the different forms they can take, check out these examples of rhetorical questions for kids. They should give you an idea of rhetorical question effects in a piece of writing:
- ‘Who cares?’
- ‘Who wouldn’t want to be a millionaire?’
- ‘Do we want our planet to survive?’
- ‘Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?’
- ‘Are you serious?’
- ‘Do you just think money grows on trees?’
- ‘Wouldn’t you feel happier if you could wear what you wanted to school?’
The easiest way to write a rhetorical question is by forming a question right after a statement to mean the opposite of what you said. These are called rhetorical tag questions, for example:
The dinner was good, wasn’t it?
It encourages the reader or listener to agree with the statement before the question.
Examples of Rhetorical Questions in Literature
Writers use rhetorical questions in works of literature to evoke reflection
Rhetorical Question Effects: Why do we Use Rhetorical Questions?
Although we now know a bit about rhetorical questions, you may wonder, “what’s the point of asking questions to which we know the answer?”. Rhetorical questions can be employed to have a range of exciting impacts and effects on our writing. Here are eight different rhetorical question effects:
- To raise doubt.
- To challenge the listener or reader.
- To emphasize an idea.
- To demonstrate that a previously asked question was obvious or incorrect.
- Make the listeners think about specific topics.
- Subtly draw attention and emphasize specific points.
- Introduce topics and ideas.
- Engage the audience.
Rhetorical Question Effects on Persuasive Writing
To help us understand these rhetorical question effects a bit more, let’s look at how we can use them in persuasive writing.
- Ridicule another person’s argument:
For example, when trying to make another politician’s ideas sound ridiculous, you often hear rhetorical questions like this:
“And where will you get the money to pay for a new hospital? The magic money tree?”
Here, the rhetorical question is used to convey and create a sarcastic tone to make another politician sound silly because everyone knows there’s no such thing as a ‘magic money tree.
It can be an effective way to persuade your audience that the person who you’re arguing against isn’t very credible. You do have to take care with this; otherwise, as in the example above, you can sound a bit mean!
- Get your audience to think:
Martin Luther King Jr. utilized rhetorical questions to get the listener to stop and think about his point. For example, in his I have a dream speech, he said:
“Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity.”
Here, the rhetorical question invites the audience to pause for a minute and ponder what has just been said in the speech. As there is no obvious answer to this question, it provides an excellent opportunity for King to present his ideas of togetherness as the only answer to a highly complex question.
- Inspire your audience to take action:
Another rhetorical question effect is that they can persuade your audience to act. For example, in a speech about feminism and women’s rights, Emma Watson said:
“If not me, who? If not now, when? The reality is, if we do nothing, it will take 75 years, or for me to be 100 before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work.”
Here the rhetorical question is being used because there is no obvious answer. It is intended to inspire people by making them think about how important it is to take action immediately.
How do you Create a Rhetorical Question?
So far, we have learned what rhetorical questions are, explored the rhetorical question effects, and seen some great examples of them in action. It is time for your children to learn how to write independently. But how do you create a rhetorical question?
First, they must think of something they are confident about or passionate about. Then, it will help them generate rhetorical questions that make their readers feel about that topic.
Next, they will need to use something called rhetorical tag questions. These are questions that force the reader or audience to agree with them. The easiest way to write a rhetorical question is by forming a question right after a statement to mean the opposite of what you said.