Grammar Gazette: Why So Tense?

Looking for ways to improve your grammar and understanding of SLJ Style? Assistant Managing Editor Mahnaz Dar is here with some grammar tips!

Dorli Photography
Dorli Photography

Why So Tense?

Do we use past or present tense when we’re describing a book? What about when we’re talking about the events of the first book in a series to give context to a later installment? Or what if we’re talking about events that take place before the book starts?

Unless there’s a good reason (awkwardness, a time-travel book), you should use the present tense.


In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet falls in love with Mr. Darcy and the two eventually marry. In Death Comes to Pemberley, set six years later, the two have even more drama to face: murder!


  1. MKozikowskiMKozikowski says

    I received the same “present tense” guideline from a revered mentor (a veteran high school English teacher and true Renaissance Man) in my previous career. His explanation: the action should be described in present tense because events are occurring as the book is read and don’t become past tense because a reader finished the book. In that sense, Lizzie and Darcy are eternally, presently alive and falling in love. I kinda like that thought.

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