The myth of perfect

  • The thing about Giddens that had stood out more conspicuously, she said, was that she had been “way beyond her years developmentally….”

The past is past. You don’t need to make it perfect.

But this writer felt the need.

The thing about Giddens that stood out was that she was beyond her years. Totally clear.

The past perfect tense — “had stood,” “had been” — often just gums up the writing unnecessarily. I think it’s sometimes a crutch employed by writers trying to sound a bit more sophisticated. (And once you start using it, it feels like you’ve got to keep on using it for the rest of the paragraph. It’s a curse.)

Every time you write has, or had, or having — any of those evil permutations of the evil have — go back and see if you can do without them.

The past tense was good enough when you were a little tyke, and it’s probably good enough today.

  • “On a Tuesday in kindergarten, I had pooped my pants. Now, I cried to go home.”
  • “On a Tuesday in kindergarten, I pooped my pants. Now, I cried to go home.”

See? The storytelling isn’t really all that much more sophisticated in the past perfect.

One thought on “The myth of perfect

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.