A. Here’s the problem:
There are lots of ways you can run into problems with verb tenses, but there’s one I get particularly tired of marking: passages that flip-flop between present and past tenses with nary a hint of rhyme or reason. It’s mostly a sin of omission—the writer probably knows the difference between the two but forgets or simply doesn’t bother to check.
B. What to do:
Especially when writing about literature, pick a basic tense and stick with it. Either present or past will do, although I recommend present. Stick to your basic tense in your draft, then check for any inconsistencies during revision.
C. Example: When Elizabeth refused Darcy’s proposal, the reader feels she is right in doing so.
Corrected Version: When Elizabeth refuses Darcy’s proposal, the reader feels she is right in doing so.
D. Now you try—write corrected versions of the following sentences.
1. Darcy was completely rude to Elizabeth; therefore, she and the rest of the neighborhood begin to dislike him.
2. Mrs. Reynolds described Darcy as “generous-hearted.” Elizabeth then encounters Mr. Darcy at his estate.
E. For more information or additional practice, check the following sources:
Strunk & White, pp. 31-32 (http://www.bartleby.com/141/ )