Maintaining Consistency in Tense and Person

Consistency in Tense

Select a specific tense (past, present or future) for your writing. This will provide a clear time frame for your narrative or discussion. Consider the context and purpose of your writing to determine the most appropriate tense to use.

Once you have chosen a tense, stick to it throughout your writing, unless a shift in time is necessary. Shifting between tenses within the same paragraph or sentence can confuse the reader and disrupt the flow of your writing.

  • Example of inconsistent tense: “She walks to the store yesterday.”

This sentence presents an inconsistent use of tense. Here, ‘walks’ is in the present tense while ‘yesterday’ refers to a past event. This incongruity could confuse the reader.

Similarly, pay attention to verb forms when maintaining consistency in tense. Ensure that verbs align with the chosen tense and subject.

  • Example of inconsistent verb form: “She walk to the store yesterday.”

In this example, the verb ‘walk’ does not match the past tense denoted by ‘yesterday,’ nor does it agree with the third person singular subject ‘she.’

Correcting these errors improves the readability and grammatical accuracy of your writing. The revised sentence would read: “She walked to the store yesterday,” maintaining both tense and subject-verb agreement.

Consistency in Person

Determine the Person: Choose a specific person (first, second or third) to maintain consistency in your writing. The person you choose will depend on the context and purpose of your writing.

Let’s look at examples of sentences in first, second and third person:

  • First Person: “I love reading books. They transport me to different worlds.”
  • Second Person: “You should try reading this book. It might take you to another world.”
  • Third Person: “He loves reading books. They transport him to different worlds.”

Once you have determined the person, be consistent in using pronouns, verb forms and possessive determiners that match that person.

  • Example of inconsistent person: “I love reading. You should read books. One may enjoy the experience.”

It starts with first person (“I love reading”), switches to the second person (“You should read books”) and then to the third person (“One may enjoy the experience”).

Unless there is a valid reason or intentional shift in perspective, avoid switching pronouns within a sentence or paragraph.

  • Example of consistent person: “I love reading. I believe that everyone should read books. I find that one may enjoy the experience.”

This example consistently uses the first-person perspective (“I love reading”, “I believe…”, “I find…”).

Tips for Maintaining Consistency

Before you start writing, plan and outline your ideas. This will help you maintain consistency in tense and person throughout your text.

After completing your writing, proofread it carefully to check for any inconsistencies in tense and person. Make necessary revisions to ensure clarity and coherence.

Reading your writing aloud can help identify any awkward phrasing or shifts in tense and person. It allows you to hear the flow of your sentences and make necessary adjustments for consistency.

Ask a peer, teacher, or mentor to review your writing and provide feedback. Fresh perspectives can help you identify areas that may require improvement in terms of consistency.

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