English Grammar Blog
Using Questions to Draw in Your Readers
Imagine you are writing, for example, a Letter to the Editor. When you finish, you are pretty satisfied that you have presented the facts you want to, but you can’t help but feel that something is a little off. You realize that your tone is a bit too stiff: although it puts the facts out there, the way they are presented doesn’t convey the kind of feeling you have about the topic you are writing on. The letter doesn’t draw the reader in the way it should. So, what should you do? As it turns out, one of the answers to this question is simply to ask questions. When you insert various kinds of questions into your writing, it creates a more intimate, almost conversational feeling to your writing than if you just make blunt statements.
But what kind of questions should you ask? Well, ones like that last sentence, “But what kind of questions should you ask?” are a good place to start. These are called leading questions, where you try to put yourself into your reader’s shoes and think of what questions they would be asking themselves while reading your writing. Say, for example, your letter was about why the potholes on a certain road, we’ll call it Washington St., need to be fixed right away. If your reader would think, “But doesn’t Washington St. barely get any traffic?”, you could add their probable question to your letter. Then, you would follow it with your answer, which in this case might be something like, “While it is true Washington St. doesn’t get a great deal of traffic, it is on the fastest route between the local nursing home and the county hospital.”
Another kind of question that can help you draw your readers in is the rhetorical question. This is a question where the answer is obvious to both the reader and the writer. Rhetorical questions are often effective in making statements more persuasive than they would be if stated normally. This is because they suggest that the writers opinion is the only reasonable one. Using the example of the Letter to the Editor about Washington St. we used above, an effective rhetorical question might be “How long can we the people of this city continue to put up with such an extremely unsafe situation?” The answer implied is, “We can’t wait any longer”. But by using a question instead of a statement, you are able to slightly nudge the reader toward your position.
There are numerous other kinds of questions and ways they can be used to help make your writing more engaging to your readers. The basic idea is simply to write as if your audience was right in front of you, instead of reading your writing from far away. We all use questions in our everyday lives without realizing it, and once you put yourself in the right frame of mind, questions will start to flow from your pencil or pen without you even needing to think about it.
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