ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

When Questions are not Questions: Asking Loaded Questions

Updated on March 17, 2012
Rhetorical questions are better left to full-length articles.
Rhetorical questions are better left to full-length articles.

Few people would open a water cooler conversation at work with “Boy, those Republicans/Democrats are a bunch of jerks, aren’t they?” Internet forums, however, launch precisely with these types of starters. Strange, ambiguous and off-hand queries are a feature of the territory, but the underlying problem with these “questions” stem from fuzzy thinking or forceful comments veiled as questions.

Loaded for Bear

When the interrogative is woven with “I can’t believe how anyone could think …“ or less subtle insults, the trap is set. The question is loaded. What may have appeared open-ended is tapered to a statement – agree or disagree. The person who asked is no longer probing an issue, but is likely looking to sort out allies and enemies in a comment and response turf war.

Questions Run Amok

How do questions get so messed up? Putting aside nefarious internet behavior, a lot of questions get derailed through fuzzy thinking. Whether you call them logical fallacies or bone-headedness, the mistakes are both common and not as obvious as one might wish. There are two in particular that I can’t seem to escape. The first is the appeal to the authority. It has the fancy Latin name, Argumentum ad Verecundiam, but I prefer to call it “It’s-true-because-a-smart-guy-says-so fallacy.” I fell for it myself not too long ago.

I recently wrote an article about the Chinese economy. I’m no expert on China or economics, so why did I write an article about the Chinese economy? Quite frankly, I was sick of hearing that we should all start learning Chinese. I do know a few things about language and what makes a lingua franca, but I had another reason: I think I’m right. From all I’d heard and read about China’s explosive growth and how the Chinese would be taking over the world, I developed a suspicion that many of the stories were leaving something out. While researching, I ran across a blog entry that said exactly the opposite of my view. Worse yet, when I read a short bio of the author my heart sank – the guy’s credentials were extremely impressive. It took a few minutes to realize that just because this guy was smart was no guarantee he was right. In fact, when I examined his credentials more closely, I discovered his expertise was not relevant to politics, economics or language. I still think I’m right about China.

Writing in Circles

The other type of fuzzy thinking that I bump into frequently is assuming a conclusion in the arguments. It typically goes something like this:

  • Republicans are much better at running the economy.
  • Democrats will tax America into the poor house.
  • Obama is a Democrat.
  • Therefore, Obama will tax America into the poor house.

The argument is in a sense sound, and if you already believe the conclusion it is very appealing, but the problem is, the premises and conclusion are really the same. This is “begging the question.” It does not mean “raises” or “forces” a question to be asked. It’s an easy trap because it is so compelling – it just doesn’t prove anything you didn’t already know/believe.

Ask What You Don't Know

Undoubtedly, some questions are posed by those who have a chip on their shoulder and want to pose a loaded question. Others are frustrated and seek confirmation. Though they appear to be questions (e.g. “Don’t you think …”) they only lead to yes or no responses. These leave readers puzzled: “Yes, I think we should end world hunger/stop the war/reduce the calories in hamburgers”, but they leave the reader asking, “Was that a question?” If we want to see more cogent questions, we need to ask questions that we don’t already know the answers.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Brupie profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      mljdgulley354, I suspect you're right about authors cranking out worthless questions just to get an accolade on their profile.

      RTalloni, thanks for your comment.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting read, thanks. We need to take time to think through issues rather than react to them based an initial feeling or on what we've heard from others. The sort of questions you write about here can make sensational titles, but really should be ignored if we want to raise the bar for discussions on important issues. Working at common sense thinking that seeks to examine every aspect of an issue helps. :)

    • mljdgulley354 profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree with you. I believe some questions are asked, not because the author doesn't know the answer but so they can get the accolade that says they ask so many questions. Some are looking for a provoking discussion while other questions are looking for help or understanding. Good response to the question


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)