Word Doctor: Don’t Change Tense!

The Word Doctor is IN!

Today’s Workshop Topic is Tense …

What are tenses?  They are the “voice” of your writing:

First Person = “I” or “we”  (informal, personal)

Second Person = “you” (instructional; advice)

Third Person = “he, she, it, one” or “they” (academic; professional writing)

The most popular tense is first person. It’s friendly and personal. As you can see, second person is used for writing instructions or giving advice (I’m using second person in this blog post).

Third person is used in academic or professional writing, by doctors, professors, etc.  So what’s the problem?  Too many tenses!  Here’s an EXAMPLE:


If you need to fix your computer,  you should first consult with an expert. I like to work with Nerds on Call. We get a lot of good service from them and I know you will too. When we were there last week with our laptop, they helped us out very much.


The above example starts out instructional in second person, but quickly switches to first person and then adds in a third person tense.  The rule is to stick closely to one tense. If you’re instructing, then stick with second tense throughout.  Here is a RE-WRITE in second tense:

If you need to fix your computer,  you should first consult with an expert. Take your computer to “Nerds on Call.” You will get very good service and sound advice on how to protect your computer from viruses.


If you want it personal, soften your tense by leading with “I”:

I’m sorry you’re having problems with your computer. Bob and I take ours to “Nerds on Call.”  I’m sure you will get the same great service we got.


To find out if you’re switching tenses too much, print out what you’re writing and circle each pronoun. You will see your main tense emerge.

Enjoy writing and don’t get too tense!


2 responses

  1. I believe you actually, I do believe! Could this possibly be doable that will get your site translated in to Italian? English is my second language.

    1. Lee,

      Thank you for your message. I am not sure I understand your request, but my site will not be translated into Italian. Tell me more about your thoughts on this, how did you find my site?

      Thanks again,

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