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) To illustrate the different use of tenses in an abstract, let’s take a look at this abstract from an article published in Nature. We hope this addresses any questions you have about tense use.
Melanie Dawson and Joe Essid, of the University of Richmond Writing Center, explain that this approach treats the action of the book as if it is currently happening.
While this may seem arbitrary, the purpose of the convention is to convey that the action of the book is ongoing, relived by each reader, each time the book is opened.
Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "Metro Pulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly.
She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee.
She received a BA from Bard College and an MA from the University of Delaware and has ten years of editorial experience.
Writing about fiction requires a convention known as the "literary present,” meaning you must use present tense verbs to describe the action in the story or novel.Hudson's books and smuggled them home, he begins to feel alienated from his wife and coworkers." When introducing quotations from fiction, use present tense, but the quotation itself must retain whatever tense the original passage uses.Any material enclosed within quotation marks must be identical in spelling and wording to the source.Using the present tense consistently, however, would accurately reflect the status of all the texts mentioned in the sentence as works that exist in the present: A word of caution for copyeditors: if an author uses the past or present tense in a consistent manner when discussing works, pause before you follow an impulse to change the tenses, especially if such an intervention would be extensive.The author may have sound reasons for his or her choices, and you would do better to query before you impose one tense over another.Hudson’s books and smuggles them home, he begins to feel alienated from his wife and coworkers.” The modifiers -- in this case, the preposition “after” -- make the timeline clear without breaking the consistency of the literary present tense.You can also use the present perfect tense along with the present tense to clarify the order of events: "After Montag has saved some of Mrs.This sentence might come from an essay about Voltaire’s satire “Candide”: “The motley group settles into their Turkish farm, where, Voltaire concludes, ‘Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops.’” Both “settles” and “tells” use literary present tense, but “produced” preserves the original quotation's past tense verb.In some cases, you may use past tense when writing about literature, but only when you are specifically placing the work or author within their historical context.Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.Many of you have asked us questions about seemingly conflicting rules about which tense to use in a research article abstract, so we wrote this article to clarify the issue.