Think of it this way: They’re not real questions but rather statements given in a question form. Some writers can and have used this technique to great effect.
And their use has become clichéd due to overuse and ineffective use. To say that rhetorical questions are all bad is like saying hammers are all bad.
Many people can and have made the argument that rhetoric as a whole is used more often in informal writing and speech.
In informal settings, such as a blog post (like this one), a speech, an article directed toward children, or a work of fiction, they tend to be used more often.
They also can be patronizing; rhetorical questions are used to capture the attention of students. In the wrong scenario, it makes the reader unconsciously feel childish — think .
It will interrupt a thought, distract or off-put a reader, and, if used abundantly, cause irritation.A question is meant to pull in attention and make your reader wonder. Doing that too much can backfire horribly: You’ll either make them bored (especially if you’re using a question to pad the word count or recycle information) or you’ll make them annoyed.The annoyance comes from the fact that you’re asking a reader to think but with no payoff, because you’ll end up explaining the answer anyway. Are you being repetitious with them to pad out the word count rather than adding information to your piece? Are you writing a piece where the rhetorical question would sound really odd?It can even be a necessity in some situations where any other type of sentence just wouldn’t do what you want.It’s hard to hammer a nail when you’re unnecessarily limiting yourself to screwdrivers and large rocks.Are you trying to be cute and colloquial — and failing?Have you used several rhetorical questions in the same piece to ill effect? As we have mentioned previously, rhetorical questions can be really, really annoying.Or rather, are you trying to be overly conversational in a way that actually is off-putting to a reader?Do you feel like you’re pestering your reader with questions like an interviewer or a car salesman who assumes they know their audience intimately, when they really don’t?