Writing is very difficult. Writing will be very difficult. Writing has been very difficult.
The English language allows for a very complex set of time-stamped situations. For the purposes of illustrating that point, I will place my verbs, modal verbs, and phrasal-verbs in bold throughout this post. When in combination with hypothetical situations, the speaker/writer uses something called the Conditional–and its myriad of forms–to create intricate descriptions of what-ifs, might-have-beens, and counter-to-facts.
Had I only been there a moment sooner, everything would have turned out for the better.
Writing about history, then, would seem to doom the writer to an eternity of wading through the swamp of tenses, filled with eddies and shifting currents of whens and who-said-whens. So, when should a writer use the past tenses versus the present tenses? While common sense instructs one to use the present to write about the present and the past to write about the past, there are many conventions that demand otherwise. This post contains some observations gleaned from writing my dissertation. Continue reading Tense Decisions