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09/04/2019

What is rhetorical writing?

QUESTION
What is rhetorical writing?
I really don’t understand. I have to write an essay explaining what it is. Can someone just give me an idea of what it is?

ANSWER
“We must ask ourselves, what is a rhetorical question? It is a question that…” (a quote from a movie who’s name I’ve long since forgotten – supposed to be the epitome of a boring lecture).

I can’t say as I have heard of the term “rhetorical writing”, generally you hear the term “rhetorical question”. This is a question that you ask, but you do not intend for anyone to answer. As in the the lecture above, the professor asks the question, but he is not expecting the students to answer the question. He is going to answer the question. But he gives them both the question and the answer (the answer wouldn’t make as much sense if you did not know what question it was answering).

Something that is kind of related is the “leading question”. This is when you ask a question not because you want the answer, but because you want the person answering the question to think about it, and if they think about it, you hope that it will then lead them to the conclusion that should be obvious. For example, and I admit this is a poor example, if someone asked you “how much is a postage stamp?”, and then you asked them “what did the clerk at the post office say when you asked him that?” You don’t want to know what the clerk said. You want to lead the person asking you to the conclusion that they should go ask the clerk at the post office this question.

So what is Rhetorical writing? (note the rhetorical question). I would presume that it is writing that presents questions or problems to be solved, and then turns around and provides solutions to those questions/problems.