Tag Archives: tense

Attributes – He said, she said

Attribution is the convention in composition of identifying a speaker or writer when you include direct quotes (which should be enclosed in quotation marks) or paraphrases. An entire system of usage — a choreography, if you will — has developed around how to arrange quotations and paraphrases and their attributions. Here are the dance steps:

“The basic setup is to reproduce a single sentence, followed by an attribution,” he began. “Then, if the quotation consists of more than one sentence, follow the attribution with the rest of it.” If the quotation extends for more than one paragraph, do not close the first paragraph with an end quotation mark; this omission signals to the reader that the same person is being quoted in the next paragraph.

In that next paragraph, rinse and repeat. Many publications, however, treat long quotations as extracts, specially formatted with narrower margins, sometimes in a different font or font size, and set off from the rest of the text. The tipping point for minimum word count for an extract varies, starting at about a hundred words.

Attributions can also precede a quotation: “The report concluded, ‘Meanwhile, the ecosystems it is intended to save are in peril.’” Or they can be inserted within one, in a natural breaking point: “‘For millions of people,’ she added, ‘reclaimed water has become as ordinary as storm sewers and summer droughts.’”

Beware of sentences that introduce the attribution before the end of the sentence when there is no internal punctuation. Sometimes it works: “‘The lesson,’ Smith says, ‘is that we should have paid more attention to what nature was telling us.’” Sometimes it doesn’t: “‘We knew,’ Jones says, ‘that Microsoft would eventually become a major competitor.’”

You’ll notice that some attributions in the samples above are in present tense, and some are in past tense. Which is correct? The answer is, either. It depends on the medium. News articles generally employ past tense because they’re reporting on an event that has already occurred or recording what someone said about an event, while features and profiles, crafted to make you feel like you are at the writer’s shoulder, often feature present tense.

Books referring to the past, appropriately, quote historical figures with past-tense attributions, but those with interviews of real, live people are likely to be written with attributions formed in the present tense. In all expository writing, let these parameters be your guides.

And what about fiction? Writing novels in the present tense is rare; it can be distracting — or, worse, exhausting. It’s easier to get away with it in short stories.

Attribution is the convention in composition of identifying a speaker or writer when you include direct quotes (which should be enclosed in quotation marks) or paraphrases. An entire system of usage — a choreography, if you will — has developed around how to arrange quotations and paraphrases and their attributions. Here are the dance steps:

“The basic setup is to reproduce a single sentence, followed by an attribution,” he began. “Then, if the quotation consists of more than one sentence, follow the attribution with the rest of it.” If the quotation extends for more than one paragraph, do not close the first paragraph with an end quotation mark; this omission signals to the reader that the same person is being quoted in the next paragraph.

In that next paragraph, rinse and repeat. Many publications, however, treat long quotations as extracts, specially formatted with narrower margins, sometimes in a different font or font size, and set off from the rest of the text. The tipping point for minimum word count for an extract varies, starting at about a hundred words.

Attributions can also precede a quotation: “The report concluded, ‘Meanwhile, the ecosystems it is intended to save are in peril.’” Or they can be inserted within one, in a natural breaking point: “‘For millions of people,’ she added, ‘reclaimed water has become as ordinary as storm sewers and summer droughts.’”

Beware of sentences that introduce the attribution before the end of the sentence when there is no internal punctuation. Sometimes it works: “‘The lesson,’ Smith says, ‘is that we should have paid more attention to what nature was telling us.’” Sometimes it doesn’t: “‘We knew,’ Jones says, ‘that Microsoft would eventually become a major competitor.’”

You’ll notice that some attributions in the samples above are in present tense, and some are in past tense. Which is correct? The answer is, either. It depends on the medium. News articles generally employ past tense because they’re reporting on an event that has already occurred or recording what someone said about an event, while features and profiles, crafted to make you feel like you are at the writer’s shoulder, often feature present tense.

Books referring to the past, appropriately, quote historical figures with past-tense attributions, but those with interviews of real, live people are likely to be written with attributions formed in the present tense. In all expository writing, let these parameters be your guides.

And what about fiction? Writing novels in the present tense is rare; it can be distracting — or, worse, exhausting. It’s easier to get away with it in short stories.

From: Daily Writing Tips

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Irregular Verbs

The simple answer is: Any verb that doesn’t follow standard rules of conjugation. Unfortunately, there are so many “irregular” verbs in the English language that the title doesn’t really make sense. These grammar anomalies have been lurking in plain sight for yearsand they might just come naturally to you, but we’re still going to take a closer look.

Irregular Verbs and the Past Tense

Typically, it’s correct (and easy enough) to say the past tense of a verb ends in an “-ed.” For example, “I drop the kids off in the morning” in the present tense becomes, “I dropped the kids off this morning.” Or, “I scrub the dishes,” in the present changes to “I scrubbed the dishes” in the past tense. Those two letters added to the end of a word are a pretty good indicator of past tense.

Then you come across a verb like “speak.” In the present tense, you’d say, “I speak.” In the past tense, you would not say, “I speaked.” Instead, you’d say, “I spoke.”

Boom. You’ve just found an irregular verb. As you might have guessed, irregular verbs break the standard rule of ending in “-ed” in the past tense.

To further confuse the issue, irregular verbs have no discernible pattern themselves. They’re just … irregular. These irregular verbs are some of the most commonly used in English — “go,” “say,” “see,” “think,” “make,” “take,” “come,” and “know.” These workhorse verbs take on different spellings in the past tense.

In general, irregular verbs are easy enough to spot in the past tense — if it doesn’t end in “-ed,” it’s irregular.

Spotting More Irregular Verbs

Test yourself: Which of these examples of irregular verbs are correct?

  1. She drunk the glass of water.
  2. The phone rung and rung.
  3. The pants shrunk in the dryer.

Answer: Only number three is correct. In one, the correct past tense is “drank,” and in number two, the phone “rang.”

It’s still quite easy to get confused by irregular verbs, especially when you look at the difference between simple past tense and past participles.

For example, “Stacy drived to the public pool where she swum for hours.” Hopefully this sounds wrong to your ears, because it’s just an irregular mess.

There are two irregular verbs in this example, but neither is correct. The first is obvious – “drived” attempts to follow the regular verb “-ed” ending. It sounds awkward, because it’s not a real word at all. The correct (irregular) past tense is “drove.”

The second one is a little trickier. “Swum” is in fact the past participle of the verb “to swim,” but it’s not the simple past, which is “swam.”

The correct version of Stacy’s day at the pool is, “Stacy drove to the public pool where she swam for hours.”

As confusing as irregular verbs may seem, they start to come naturally with practice. What irregular verbs do you still stumble over?

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