Past or Present Tense? John Maki January 29, at 2: For fun I thumbed through the O. Just a data point for all you writers out there.
The tense of the verb in a sentence reflects the time at which the action is set. In historical studies that is, by definition, in the past. The vast majority of verbs used in history papers are past-tense e. When the topic is literature, however, it's a different matter.
The action which takes place in works of fiction exists in a timeless world.
|Past or present tense for fiction?||It meant I wanted to make a movie.|
So, in describing characters or recapitulating the plots found in literature, it's best to use the present tense. Here's how to construct tenses properly for both types of paper.
When describing the action or characters in a work of literary fiction, use the present tense: The present tense highlights the vividness with which they re-occur whenever they pass through our minds and, because they're works of fiction, they can and do relive with every re-reading.
This isn't true of the authors themselves, however. Discussing Homer, not his epics, calls for the past tense, because he's dead and can't come to life the way his works can.
So, when writing about the man, you should speak in the past tense "Homer composed his epics spontaneously in performance"in contrast to recapitulating the tales he told "The theme of Achilles' anger runs throughout The Iliad. Thus, literary papers usually entail a balance of past-tense and present-tense verbs.
Conversely, past-tense verbs should dominate history papers because the vividness of the present tense pertains less to the discussion of history than it does to literature.
While it's possible to describe the historical past in the present tense, such a posture belongs more naturally to casual conversation than formal writing. That is, when a speaker is trying to make his account of something which happened in the past seem more real to a listener, he may use the present tense, saying, for instance, "So, yesterday I'm standing in line at this store and some man comes in and robs it!
The use of past tenses, on the other hand, makes it seem as if the speaker is more aloof and remote from what happened: Thus, to avoid the sense that they are neutral and unconcerned, speakers often use the present tense when relating a past action, since it lends the story a sense of being right there right then.
After all, that's what the present tense is, by definition, "right here right now. The writing has the reader's full and undivided attention at all times, because I'm the reader and I'm totally involved—I guarantee it! Nor do you need to encourage me to see the past vividly.
I do that naturally, because it's my job and I love it.
So, for your writing assignments in a history course, please don't use the present tense, when describing the past.You can use either, since the book was written in the past, but there is also in English the historic present tense that applies to things produced in the past but very much part of the present such as works of art.
Consequently, you can descr. May 18, · KathyI've heard that present tense should be used in writing a book report.I haven't heard this, but I suppose you would say, "The title of the book is ", not "The title of the book was ", so you may need the present tense for certain sentences.
Thus, literary papers usually entail a balance of past-tense and present-tense verbs. Whatever you do, try not to flip back and forth between past and present verb forms. When the present tense is necessary in all types of formal writing.
About the Authors. Kelly A.
Whitney is a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at New Mexico State University. Her research and teaching interests center on epistemology in scientific and medical discourses, particularly as studied through feminist and disability rhetorics.
Therefore, a novel or story written in present tense will inevitably contain more mistakes as the writer unconsciously slips back and forth between present tense and the more comfortable past tense.
I’m not sure how powerful a con this is. I started writing my book in past tense but I’m considering switching to present. While I’m still figuring out exactly what to do, this article clarified the advantages and disadvantages and told me exactly what I needed to know.