Using Literary Present Tense

in Your Research Papers

Essential Questions:

  • What is "Literary Present Tense"?
  • How do I use literary present tense effectively in my research papers?
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GRMR.ME Literary Present Tense
Click Here for the Literary Present Tense Quiz:

Take the quiz to see how you rate using "literary present tense." There are many additional helpful resources on this site, as well, regarding grammar, punctuation, usage, style, and literary devices. Enjoy!

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Student Sample Not Using Literary Present Tense:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," Perkins Gilman in 1892 in response to the oppression she felt from what was at the time a vastly patriarchal society.

Student Sample - Revision #1:

"The Yellow Wallpaper," written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is the author's response to a patriarchal society in which women had few rights, and were both physically and mentally oppressed.

Can You See the Difference?

Look at the verb tenses:

Original Version:

  • "wrote"

Revision #1:

  • "written"; "is"
  • It is acceptable to change verb tenses within sentences when writing about literature, and combing the ideas of the story with historical events - as long as you are writing in literary present tense - "written," not "wrote"

Harvard U - "Yellow Wallpaper" - Literary Present Tense

See a great example, below, which uses "The Yellow Wallpaper" as an example of the need to switch between past (for historical references) tense and literary present tense (the discussion of the text).

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Click Here for Vanderbilt University's Helpful Handout:

How (and Why) Do I Write in Literary Present Tense? The Basic Rule: You should use the past tense when discussing historical events, and you should use the literary present when discussing fictional events.

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Literary Present Tense-Check - On to "Show, Don't Tell"

A great handout from Vanderbilt University, focusing on how to partial quotes, as well as evocative language - uses the (5) senses to describe persons, places, things, and events - in order to help prove your claim to your audience (moi).

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Now Tighten-Up That Writing - Edit. Edit Again. Repeat.

--Play this song to remind yourself to "tighten-up" your writing after each new draft. --Excellent papers have at least 5+ drafts before submission. --Plan ahead, and write your papers at least 1-2 weeks in advance - --No problem!


Archie Bell and the Drells - tighten up by Ash.K