A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in which a speaker asks questions without intending to be answered. When addressing an audience, a speaker will phrase these questions in a variety of ways. A speaker’s intentions to the listeners can vary depending on the rhetorical strategy used to pose the questions. The following are some examples of how a speaker can use rhetorical tactics to further an agenda (Zarefsky 73).
A speaker may use a rhetorical technique to maintain influence. This is accomplished by the use of a counterargument (Booth 86). This rhetorical device is known as procatalepsis. Speakers use this technique mostly when they do not have a genuine answer for a particular objection. They attain this by remaining honest about the problem their arguments contain. Through this tactic, the speakers are able to convince their audience that what they are talking about is total reality. Benefits of using this rhetorical technique are twofold: the speaker is able to build confident with the audience, helps the speaker to reply to the audience objections or opposing arguments successfully. This form of rhetorical technique is mostly used in political arena, advertisements and literature writings.
A speech can be promoted if the speaker uses rhetorical technique to show strong denial or affirmation of a point. This rhetorical technique is called erotema. In this case, the speaker asks reasons for such an affirmation and answers that particular question with another question. Through this, the speaker is able to express wonder, sarcasm, emotional dimension and indignation as (Booth 98).
Another way a speaker uses rhetorical technique to promote an agenda is by raising a question and providing an immediate answer to the question. This type of technique is called hypophora and the speaker uses it to create curiosity among the readers and also to control discussion (Bean 38). This rhetoric technique helps the speaker draw audience attention. Through this, a speaker is able to introduce a discussion. In writing, the technique helps readers get information they did not have. This rhetorical technique is used in mostly in political rally or during campaigns to challenge an opponent or imply a position with a negative assertion.
Lastly, rhetorical techniques can be used by a speaker to reproach or rebuke rather than elicit answers. A speaker can do this by attempting to shame the listener to adopt the speakers point of view. This type of rhetoric technique is referred to as epiplexis. Epiplexis assures the speaker that the listeners are following his/her line of thought (Bean 102)
In summary, a speaker can use rhetoric techniques in different ways to promote an agenda. Some of the ways a speaker uses rhetoric techniques to promote an agenda are; use of counteractive questions, asking and answering him/herself, asking a question and answering with another question and asking a question to drive listeners to his line of view.
Bean, John C., Virginia A. Chappell, and Alice M. Gillam. Reading Rhetorically. 2014
Booth, Wayne C. The rhetoric of fiction. University of Chicago Press, 2010
Zarefsky, David. Persistent questions in the theory of argument fields. Rhetorical Perspectives on Argumentation. Springer International Publishing, 2014. 71-85.