What tense should a summary be written in? This is a question asked by many students, although it is easy to answer.
In English, we have three different writing tenses: Past tense (used for writing about the past events), Present tense (used for writing about the present), and future tense (used for writing about the future events). We use verb tenses appropriate to what we are writing about or generating an idea to write an essay.
A summary is one of the most common assignments that students are required to complete. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to write summaries of novels, short stories, poems, plays, or a speech. Regardless of the subject, you are summarizing.
It is essential to understand that there is a specific tense that you should use to create a summary, and that is the Simple Past Tense.
There are three main reasons for using the simple past tense to write a summary:
- The first reason is that it creates a sense of completeness in summary. The reader will not feel that something is missing if you use this tense
- Second, it creates a sense of order when writing the summary
- Third, using the simple past tense makes it easier to present information and main points covered in a cohesive manner.
How Do You Summarize an Article?
The following are the four stages in summarizing a paper:
Identify the Main Idea or Topic
The goal of an essay is to express the author’s ideas and important conclusions drawn through arguments and evidence. Pick the main ideas you want to communicate with the audience and use your sentences well to convey the information as simple and summarised.
Keep the Summary Brief
A summary should be as brief as possible. You can use your sentences to explain your ideas in general without including too many details. Avoid repetitive words and phrases and do not include unnecessary information. Just focus on the keywords.
Never Impose Any Judgment
You are not writing a review if you summarise an original text or media piece; instead, you’re collating and condensing its most essential facts. Rather than expressing your viewpoint, write your summary in your own words.
Ensure That It Has a Flow
A summary needs to be written in a flow of words. You need to make it easy for the reader to understand what you are trying to say while writing the summary.
Creating a flow of words is very important in summarizing your article because you need to present an overview of your article in a simple way and explain the summary dos.
What Tense Should I Use in Summary?
When writing a summary, both past and present tense can be used, and it is entirely up to the writer. However, you should know that if you want to write a summary in your own words without imposing any judgment, you should write the summary in the present tense.
If you are using words from another source, then past tense is recommended because it creates a sense of completeness in summary.
Present Tense Summary Examples
Most of the summaries are always written in the present tense. It is the most common tense to be used in writing a summary. It might seem an easy task, but it has one or two pitfalls that the student must know.
Summary examples of this tense:
The book is about a young girl called Matilda.
Matilda is a six-year-old genius with a great mind. One day she meets Miss Honey, who becomes her teacher and the owner of Matilda’s favourite bookshop.
As the story progresses, Miss Trunchbull, the strictest and meanest headmistress in the world, gets involved. All the events leading up to Matilda’s victory over Miss Trunchbull are narrated in detail.
The above summary is a perfect example of the use of present tense when doing a summary.
What Tense Is Best in Academic Writing?
There are three main tensed verbs used in academic writing: present simple, past simple, and present perfect. Here is how they are used in academic writing:
The Present Simple Tense
The most frequent tense in academic writing is the present simple, generally regarded as the “default” until there’s a compelling reason to choose another tense when supporting important details. It is used for:
- Facts, generalizations and routines (e.g., “DNA is a complex molecule that carries the genetic instructions for all living organisms”)
- Scientific and technical explanations (e.g., “Radiation exposure can cause changes in the structure of DNA.
The Past Simple Tense
This tense is used in academic writing when the writer is looking into the past. It is used for:
- Cause-effect chains (e.g., “The mutation resulted in the formation of the sickle cell allele, which is responsible for sickle cell disease”)
- Generalizations (e.g., “The first humans settled in North America 12,000 years ago”)
- Contrasts (e.g., “Louise is very neat; therefore, she always makes her bed”)
The Present Perfect Tense
The present perfect is frequently used to describe prior research, and since it is a present tense, it indicates that the results are still relevant today. It is also used to show how past events still influence the present. That is supporting details. It is used for:
- Acknowledgements (e.g., “The authors would like to thank Dr John Smith for his helpful advice with this research”)
- Generalizations (e.g., “In the past, universities used to rely on tuition fees to fund their budgets.
Most Common Verb Tenses in Summary Academic Writing
Three tensed verbs are used in academic writing. The most common verb tense is present simple, followed by past simple and present perfect. These tenses can be used either in the passive or active voice to give out the important facts.
Need Help on What Tense Should a Summary Be Written In?
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