In first person narrative, would it be acceptable to use a period in place of a question mark when the narrator is asking a rhetorical question?

example: My car broke down again. Why does this always seem to happen when I'm broke and between jobs(? or .)

I feel, as the narrator, it is more of a statement and I am trying to display an emotion other than inquiry.

  • 6
    This will fall under the category of 'one choice annoys some people, the other choice annoys virtually nobody.' You can use a period, but really, should you. The answer, no?
    – DPT
    Jan 13 '18 at 16:01
  • 1
    @DPT I guess I should leave the QM and trust the reader to get the message.
    – TribeOfOne
    Jan 13 '18 at 16:07
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    I dunno. I would. In my manuscript, one reader marked all my periods that should be QMs. I changed them all because she was bothered. Actually, I left one (just one) as a period, within a piece of dialogue, because I intuited it was better that way. I probably wanted to convey that it was rhetorical, as yours is. May be a case of use this device sparingly?
    – DPT
    Jan 13 '18 at 16:16
  • Hi WelderGuy. I edited the title of your question to try to better summarize what you are asking about. If you feel I did a poor job at it, feel free to Edit further.
    – user
    Jan 13 '18 at 22:18

A rhetorical question is still a question, isn't it? I would use a question mark for a question and a period for a statement.

"Why does this always happen to me?"

"Rats, this always happens when I'm broke and between jobs."

  • 1
    Point made. Question mark used.
    – TribeOfOne
    Jan 15 '18 at 16:22

A question is a question. The reader may not understand if you don't put the question mark at the end. If you're reading outloud, a sentence with a question mark at the end would curve up, but if it's a period, you would only take a pause.

  • What are your thoughts of the "?!" ending to more clearly demonstrate the actual emotion? Or am I just over thinking it and need to trust the reader to get the point?
    – TribeOfOne
    Jan 18 '18 at 13:43
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    I would say to use "?!" while demonstrating confusion or surprise. For example: "You've been accepted to the best university already?!" she exclaimed. Jan 18 '18 at 22:36

The period should be used when stating a statement. Questions are used if you normally aren't sure. For example:

Did the car break down? You don't know it the car did break down, therefore using a question mark would make sense.

The car broke down. You know that the car broke down. It is a statement and you wouldn't need to ask anyone if it did.

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