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Quill PenTips for Writers by Brad

June 4, 2002

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Should I Ask? The Rhetorical Question

Often, I have found my students were taught to use a rhetorical question (a kind of question to provoke thinking and emphasize something, but not meant to evoke an answer) in their writing. 

These questions, while sometimes useful, are best used sparingly, if at all, in student writing. The key problem is that the rhetorical question posed by many students may actually have an expected answer, one which may or may not match the thinking of the reader.

It is thus quite dangerous, in my view, to overuse such questions, especially considering they may give rise to offense in the reader if the writer is not sure of his or her audience. Best, then, to give the answer instead!

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