8.04.2005

Miss Snark gets tense about verbs

While strolling through the blogosphere Miss Snark saw her name in big red flashing lights. Naturally she stopped to see what all the fuss was about.

From Secrets and Lies comes this:

Also? Note to self: quit listening to other people's opinions about words. There was that foolish summer I spent avoiding all forms of "to be" because somebody (and I'm not being coy here, I honest-to-god cannot remember who, that's how terribly important *they* were,) claimed fiction littered with being verbs was deficient. Fiction without being verbs? Stilted and overwritten, in the attempt to avoid the most common verb in the English language. It took me months to realize that-to be or not to be, hello??

This morning, it's Miss Snark and her hatred of the past perfect. Oh god, she's a professional! She does this for a living! She hates past perfect, and I use it all the time a... big breath! Breaaaaaaathe! Miss Snark is probably a fantastic agent, but she is not *my* agent. Rebecca's read plenty of my work, and never once commented on the use of past perfect. (And I suspect there's no breaking me of it anyway. Had come means something different from came, and I'm still so neo-archaic that I use the subjunctive mood; past perfect ain't goin' nowhere.)



(some stuff taken out)


2 Responses to "Thinking Too Much"

Stephanie Says:
Past perfect is a bad thing? This just makes me think of all the critiques I've done where I've had to correct people for not using past perfect! Who knew that a tense could be so controversial. . .


Saundra Says:
Certainly not me! Though I did know a woman one who got so bent out of shape if you called the subjunctive mood a verb tense that you actually had to warn other language-y people to avoid the subject entirely. It was an impressive rant, but only the first six or seven times one heard it!




Miss Snark was of shocked to her shoes to discover she's being thought of as a hater of any sort of perfection, let alone the past perfect.

Here's the scoop: MIss Snark admires the past perfect. Had she world enough and time she might compose an ode to it.

What she doesn't like is seeing it used as the default tense.

Yes indeed "he had been" is different than "he was". When you purposely choose to use the past perfect, it's an art form. Like curry. When you use it all the time cause you don't know any better, then it's ...well...slurry.

clearly the readers over at Lies and Secrets know their tenses. Would that everyone did.

3 comments:

Saundra said...

Okay, only using the past perfect would drive me up the wall. I don't envy you your slush pile, not one little bit!

Mama Rose said...

Personally, I think if people would stop trying to find the simple answer and just learn how to use grammar properly a lot of folks would improve their writing. An example: It's much easier to say, "Don't use the verb 'to be'," than it is to learn what passive voice is so you can make an informed decision on whether you need to change it to active voice.

Linda

Anonymous said...

It's much easier to say, "Don't use the verb 'to be'," than it is to learn what passive voice is so you can make an informed decision on whether you need to change it to active voice.

Avoiding forms of "to be" and avoiding passive constructions are two completely different issues. There are good reasons to avoid forms of "to be" even in sentences with active construction.

I agree with you, however, that writers need to be educated about grammar so that they can make good decisions about word usage.