A statement is not a question

As a writer, I am alert to grammatical errors I encounter in my reading. One of the most frequent—and one I do not understand—stems from the inability of many writers to tell the difference between a statement and a question.

In a book I am reviewing, I read the following: “He’d been trying to escape his demons for so long now, maybe it was finally time to face them?”

Leaving aside the two superfluous adverbs, this sentence does not require a question mark. While the speaker is questioning his own future course, he is making a statement. Maybe it is time to face his demons. Period.

I come across this misunderstanding in business communications, where misuse of the question mark conveys uncertainty on the part of the writer, not the impression the writer wants to convey.

To paraphrase Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues, let’s be careful out there…shall we?

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