How Consistent Are You?

http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/2010/11/how-consistent-are-you/

Running is the thing right now.  Everywhere I look, it seems that people are talking about running.  My Twitter timeline is flooded with people’s tweets about 5k, 10k, and LSD! (Apparently, that means long slow distance and not what I initially thought.)  On Facebook, I see wall posts about runs left and right.  It’s the same thing with forums.

Here’s one post that caught my eye and gave me an idea for today’s grammar post.

i started running because i want to be more active. now i run because i love it and i’m obsessed with it.

Let’s get the capitalization mistakes out of the way so we can focus on the structure.

I started running because I want to be more active.  Now I run because I love it, and I’m obsessed with it.

I have one phrase for you: verb tense consistency.

Verb tense consistency is one of the most basic things that we need to pay attention to when writing.  There is only one thing to remember: when you start using a certain verb tense, stick with it unless you have a particularly good reason to switch to another verb tense.

Take a look at the first sentence in the example above: I started running because I want to be more active.

The person who wrote it started with the past tense and then switched to the present tense.  Bearing the simple rule of consistency in mind, we can fix this, and come up with the correct form.

I started running because I wanted to be more active.

Here’s another example.

Kelsier is not the strongest character in the story, but he did not have any major weaknesses either.

Here’s the fix.

Kelsier is not the strongest character in the story, but he does not have any major weaknesses either.

Simple, right?  The thing is that when you are writing a 1,000-word article with several more pieces waiting in line, it can be very easy to slip up and switch tenses.  One reason is that in casual spoken English, tenses are sometimes mixed up. As writers, we are not immune to verb tense consistency mistakes.  However, it is also our responsibility to double check our work so that we can catch such mistakes.

Do you have any verb consistency stories to share?

Photo via Francis Storr

About

Noemi Twigg has been writing for Splashpress Media for several years. An English teacher by profession, she has a penchant for words and likes to play around with them. Having been bitten by the travel bug, she aims to discover more languages in the near future as she continues to do what she loves most - writing.

Comments

  1. I have a friend who has self published a couple of books and the other day she gave us a HUGE lecture on using the right verb tense while righting on a group blog. Unfortunately, when I went to read one of her posts, it was as bad as that first tweet for jumping between tenses! Ouch. This is a pet peeve of mine, I have to admit.

    • Noemi Twigg says:

      Unfortunately, it’s easy to slip up – especially when we’re not focused. Proofreading does the trick most of the time. ;)

  2. Noemi, thanks so much for the refresher on not mixing verb tenses.

    I review grammar basics several times a year, usually by reviewing books like The Elements of Style. If I don’t do it often enough, I sometimes find myself making mistakes, especially if they are common in spoken English.

  3. I’m just amused that this story talks about running and being active but the ad I see is a shiny glazed doughnut. :D

    • Noemi Twigg says:

      Ha ha – I see an apple now, not a doughnut. Maybe it’s the Universe encouraging us not to take exercise that seriously. :p

  4. Eeek. This is a huge weakness of mine, I switch back and forth like some people switch their fork back and forth while eating…

    I will make a new effort today Noemi! Thanks for the post! BTW if you see me to it send me an email!
    Terreece Clarke´s last blog post ..Comment on 5 Ways Companies Kill Their Blog – Contractors can provide back-up in times of need by Tweets that mention 5 Ways Companies Kill Their Blog – Topsycom

  5. I too am guilty of this. Thank you very much for this article. I plan to read it again later on an applied it to better use. Ok sorry that was just a bad joke, but I got the message.

  6. I hate it when people mix tenses as well, even though I have been guilty of it on several occasions. But just a quick comment about the final example you used: “Kelsier is the not the strongest character in the story, but he does not have any major weaknesses either.” Shouldn’t the first “the” in the sentence be removed as well? Not to nit pick, but… :)

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