300 Days of Better Writing

July 7, 2010

Verb Tenses to Quote Books and Authors


When you take a quote from a book, you have to decide whether you are attributing the quoted material to the author or the book.

If you are attributing a quote to a book, use the present tense. Because the information is always present (i.e., always available right now), use present tense verbs, such as states, notes, claims, and describes. For example, you may write the following:

“The book Ten Habits of Unhappy People claims that the main reason for disappointment is a lack of communication.”

On the other hand, if you are attributing a quote to the author, use the past tense. Because the author wrote the information at a specific time in the past, use a past tense verb, such as stated, noted, claimed, described, and wrote. For example, you may write the following:

“James Patterson, author of Ten Habits of Unhappy People, wrote that the main reason for disappointment is a lack of communication.”

(This is the tip for day 41 in 300 Days of Better Writing, also available at Hostile Editing in PDF and Kindle formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.)

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