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Should You Write in Past or Present Tense?

When editing academic documents, I often have to change verb tenses to ensure that a scholar writes in a consistent verb tense.


Sometimes, I am asked great questions about verb tense, such as “Should research that is being proposed be written in future tense?”


Of course!


“Should research that has been conducted already be placed in past tense?”


Absolutely, but it doesn’t have to always. Though judgement must be used, scholars should strive for a consistent verb tense throughout their documents.


One thing is for certain, if an action is occurring, it should be written in present tense. See the example below:


Sentence: This literature review WILL INCLUDE key definitions, a brief background of critical race theory, and an understanding of other important theories.


Edited Sentence: This literature review INCLUDES key definitions, a brief background of critical race theory, and an understanding of other important theories.


Explanation: In the sentence above, “this literature review” describes a current chapter in the document. Since the literature review already contains these elements rather than having these elements sometime in the future, the future tense in the initial sentence (“will include”) is changed to the present tense in the edited sentence (“includes”).


When drafting and editing documents, scholars must ensure to use the verb tense that reflects the correct timing of the action.


Dr. V (committed to cultivating writers)


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