Can You Ask Questions in an Essay? (What You Should Know)

February 28, 2023

can you ask questions in an essay explained

Essays are argumentative in nature. You must take a stance on an issue and use evidence and reason to convince an audience that your point of view if ultimately the most convincing. But can you ask questions in an essay?

You can ask questions in an essay provided they lead to an idea or concrete answers. If you don’t intend to give an answer to a question, don’t ask. Also, instead of asking a direct rhetorical question, consider using a rhetorical statement.

We tend to shy away from asking questions in essay because it’s hardly the intention. We emphasize more on answering questions and investigating issues, as these are what readers want.

However, there may be instances when it makes sense to ask questions. So we’ll look at two things in this guide:

  • Why you should not ask questions in an essay
  • When it makes sense to ask questions in an essay

What is the Goal of Essay Writing?

An essay is a type of an assignment intended to draw people to engage to your argument and consider your position, even if what you stand for conflicts with their beliefs.

If you can get your audience to read your essay, you’ll have communicated and met your goal.

Essay writing is a process that starts with in-depth research, identification of relevant sources, and development of an outline to organize thoughts and ideas. Moving further, you have to grab readers’ attention with a strong and arguable hook and develop a strong statement of declaration that gives them the spark to read on.

Because essay writing is about drawing readers in on a significant issue, asking questions may add little value to the context. Still, it helps to learn when to ask a question and when not to do so at all. 

Can You Ask Questions in an Essay?

Sometimes the temptation to ask questions in an essay feels almost irresistible. However, including questions in formal writing is a bad idea and it’s therefore something you want to avoid.

From an academics standpoint, here’s why it’s a bad idea to ask questions in an essay:

1. Don’t Ask Questions You Don’t Intend to Answer

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing an essay is to ask questions you don’t have the intention to answer.

It leaves a reader with a why or so what question, which is annoying.

Readers need answers to the research question that you proposed to explore. Therefore, every idea you introduce, every word you write, and every answer you give must contribute toward answering the question.

2. Questions Make Readers Lose Focus

If you ask questions in an essay and not answer them, you leave every reader hanging on a cliff with no clear direction.

So if you raise a question in your assignment, ensure you tell your reader why your essay cannot resolve or give a convincing response to the question.

Don’t just give a general answer simply because you don’t want to provoke the reader. Instead, focus on giving useful insights to the arguments you’re trying to build. 

Related Reading

When to Ask Questions in an Essay

While we maintain a strong stand that you should avoid asking questions in an essay, there are instances when it makes sense to do so.

In the Introduction

An introduction is the most important part of an essay. It’s also the hardest part of the assignment.

If you think about it, the human attention span dropped from 12 to 8 seconds, which means you have a small window of opportunity to convince your audience that your essay is worth reading.

The best and the most effective way to grab their attention fast for the first 8 seconds is to start your essay with a hook. Asking a question can come in quite handy here since it can easily hook them in. Then, you can give a clear answer to the question in the body part of your essay.

If Followed by an Answer

Don’t be the student who asks questions in an essay and then leave it to the readers to figure out the answer. That can be so provocative that it forces your instructor to a point of losing the interest to read the essay. If you have to ask a question, make sure you follow it with an answer.

Remember, questions without answers are just but filler words in an essay. Not to mention that sometimes they can act as a trap that transfers the responsibility of answering the question from a writer to a reader, which is very unacceptable.

One last thing to keep in mind is that you should ask questions only if it’s necessary. Often, less is more, and given that your audience needs answers more than they expect to see questions in your essay.

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About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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