How do I determine a statement versus a question in dialogue? I wrote this sentence:"Brad, you know the rules for leaving your cabin at night.”

“How could I forget.”

The charming camp owner told campers that the quickest way to be sent home was so leave the cabin at night.

I meant to write it as more of a statement and not use a question mark, but I'm questioning whether it should have a question mark.

  • As written, it looks more like an exclamative than an interrogative, so no question mark is required. You might consider adding an exclamation mark, though. The interrogative might be something like How shall I forget them?
    – BillJ
    Mar 20, 2016 at 12:03
  • It’s arguable that that is exempt from a question mark.
    – tchrist
    Mar 20, 2016 at 14:17
  • "Interrogative" in "interrogative question" is superfluous. "Interrogative" means referring to a question.
    – rogermue
    Mar 20, 2016 at 15:31
  • Another note, this question seems to be a bit more about writing than it is grammar. Perhaps visiting the writers stack exchange and looking through the dialogue tag may help you. Jul 18, 2016 at 17:01
  • 1
    How do you mean it to be spoken? The question mark is a signal to the reader that the sentence should be read with the rising intonation characteristic of a question.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 18, 2016 at 17:26

3 Answers 3


If you are writing dialogue, you should be guided mostly by the tone of voice you intend for the speaker. Obviously he's asking a question that's rhetorical at best, so any punctuation would be appropriate, depending on how he's supposed to sound. Does he sound genuinely inquiring? Use a question mark. Is he shocked or annoyed at the suggestion that he might have forgotten? Use an exclamation mark. Is he talking in a flat, sarcastic voice? Use a period.

  • Yes, I think on reflection that the 'sarcastic' meaning is the most salient one here.
    – BillJ
    Mar 20, 2016 at 14:44

Dialogue is different from regular writing, as in you don't really have to stick to grammar rules because everything is dependent on how the character is saying it, as Fili said.

Differentiating between them is simply a matter of imagining how the character is speaking and using the appropriate punctuation to match.

For example, let's say we have batman and he's saying "I am batman."

"I am batman!" He announces as he bursts through the windows of the warehouse, frightening the scheming villains below.

"I am batman." He says in a low voice as he sneaks up behind a villain and wraps his arm around his neck.

"I am batman?" He asks the young boy next to him, not quite sure, because he can't remember anything before waking up.

See, in these various instances, Batman is saying the same thing, but he's saying it differently. The second article on this website may provide some assistance.


The said statement certainly does not need a question mark at the end of it to properly convey it's meaning to anyone reading it.

If you do want to add a question mark however, it would make sense to add another confirmatory type of question at the end of it :

"Brad, you know the rules for leaving your cabin at night, right?"

Otherwise, just like Bill suggested, the response by Brad should definitely have the question mark associated with :

"How could I forget?"

  • Err, I don't think that's what I actually suggested.
    – BillJ
    Mar 20, 2016 at 14:29

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