Tense Matters

Several years ago, I met with an agent, eager for his feedback on a book proposal. He didn’t wind up representing me, but he did give me perhaps the best advice I’ve yet to receive on writing a proposal.

The proposal was peppered with the future tense, as in: “The book will look at” and “This chapter will examine….”

No good, he told me, adding that I should always write in the present tense. Here’s why. The future tense is too tentative, suggesting that I am not confident that the book will see the light of day.

Of course, no proposal may ever see the light of day…but as the proposal’s author, I must brim with confidence, steadfast in its potential. And the best way to do that is in the present tense, as if to solidify the notion that the book is already an actuality. As in, “This chapter examines…”

No hesitancy there.


About adinagenn

The author of three published books, a writer and a journalist, I'm still debating which format I like best...
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2 Responses to Tense Matters

  1. Michael Watt says:

    Writers should also refrain from prefacing statements with, “I think…” or “I believe…” I believe I think such words weaken the statement that follows.

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