Rhetorical Questions

Are rhetorical questions not extremely annoying? Should authors not simply state their points instead of sneaking them by the reader through apparent questions? Is the answer to these questions not clear?

I do not think that questions should be universally omitted from writing.  In dialogue, they are helpful.  Questions can also sometimes be effectively used in academic writing.  In the social sciences, for instance, it is sometimes useful to state one’s research question in the introduction to an essay.   However, rhetorical questions are different from research questions. The latter honestly indicate the question that the research has attempted to answer; the former try to force the reader to agree with a claim that is sneakily hidden in a question.

Socratic questioning is similar, but distinct.  Socrates’ questions were guiding ones, but they left room for disagreement and objection.

Rhetorical questions assume the reader will not disagree.  It is this presumptive aspect of rhetorical questions that can make them annoying to read, as well as the way the claims embedded within them are not clearly stated; the reader must do work to get past the rhetoric and tease them out.

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