1. TLX
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    TLX New Member

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    Correct tense when discussing an author?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by TLX, Feb 28, 2011.

    What tense should be used when talking about the author of a book/essay/etc?

    Example:
    Present: I think the author fails to prove her point.
    vs.
    Past: I think the author failed to prove her point.

    I know present is correct when discussing the actual written work, but I am not sure if it is the same when discussing the author of the work.

    Which is correct?

    Thank you.
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think i would go at it from the perceptive that I would choose whatever made the text flow more smoothly. And if your opinion on the book is in present tense, it might be easier to read if you remarks about the author also is in present tense.
     
  3. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    i tend to prefer the present tense...
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both are correct.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both are correct.
    Even when talking about long-dead poets or authors like Keats or Charles Dickens you might use present tense, 'Keats integrates aesthetics and ideas on mortality', for example, when you mention a habit of the writer.
    You could use past tense when you discuss a particular period or work: 'Dickens used the metropolis as a metaphor for social contexts and issues in David Copperfield.'
    It's not set in stone.
     
  6. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    When writing about (long dead) authors I admire I tend to use the present tense. When writing about those I dislike or think of no account I use the past tense. A peculiar practice, perhaps, that you're not obligated to follow.;)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    reviews are traditionally written in present tense, even when referring to authors no longer with us...
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    As long as you're talking about the author in relation to the text (as you are in your example), present tense should be used. If you're talking about biographical details, past tense should obviously be used (Hemingway lived in Paris, for instance, versus Hemingway is concerned with. . .)
     
  9. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I can see both ways.
    The book was written/published in the past, so the author failed when he/she wrote it.
    But the material is new to the reader so the author fails currently.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As others have pointed out, present tense is usual. But if comparing the book under review with an earlier book it might be appropriate to use past tense concerning the earlier book: "Although Bloggs failed to make a convincing case in his 2003 book Why Authors should be Given Lots of Money, he succeeds admirably in his latest book, Look, Just Give Us the Money Now!"

    Although you could still use present tense for both.
     
  11. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I normally use the present tense, even in this sentence I am posting is in the present tense, since I am telling you what I think about this thread. I also write homework assignments and essays in the present tense whenever I am writng about an author, a company, book, idea, etc. But I guess some people might perfer past tense when writing reviews. I find it a little strange to write certain reviews, but not all them. Like Mia said, it might be a tradition to write reviews in the present tense. And I guess it can work both ways.
     

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