Perfect? You’ve been had

Just one more rant about have, has, and had.

Here’s another perfect example of a thicket of hads making mush of a paragraph:

  • The GOP, founded in 1854 as the party of reform, had been the party of abolition and the party of women’s rights. By 1896, it had become the party of big business. It had remained the party most supportive of women’s rights. The Equal Rights Amendment had been on the GOP platform since 1940. In 1968, in the first wave of the backlash against the women’s movement, the ERA had been left off the party’s platform.

The GOP had been the party of abolition, OK. Then, we could go to simple past tense: By 1896, it was the party of big business. It remained supportive. The ERA was on the platform from 1940. Then in ’68 it was taken off. All smooth, straightforward storytelling.

Ironically, had takes the past tense and turns it into something called the past perfect. It’s not perfect. It’s much of a muchness. Use it when you absolutely must. Then stop.

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