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APA Formatting & Style: Verb Tense

Last updated 4/27/2016

 

Visual: A blue screen fades up. The main title appears. “APA Formatting and Style: Verb tenses.”

Audio: Music plays.
 

Visual: A white slide appears with the following information:

Verb tense: Use past tense to describe what an author said or did.

     Brown (2012) distributed the surveys by e-mail.

     The CDC (2010) reported that 25% of Americans do not have access to health care.

Audio:  When you’re writing in APA-style, use the past-tense to discuss what the author said or did. This is another thing that may be different from other writing styles, so you may be reading articles where this isn’t the case, but if you are writing in APA-style, you want to make sure to use the past-tense to discuss what an author did. And, you think about it as, you know, the author already did it when it was published. You can’t assume that the author is still doing it or still making the same arguments because maybe they’ve changed your mind. All you can say for certain, is at the time this was published, Brown said this.

 

Visual: A new white slide appears with the following information:

Verb tense: Use the active rather than passive voice.

     -Passive Voice: The surveys were distributed by Brown (2012) by e-mail.

     -Active Voice: Brown (2012) distributed the surveys be e-mail.

Verb tense: Use past tense to describe what an author said or did.

Audio: Another thing about verb tense, is to make sure you use the active voice instead of the passive voice. The difference between the active and passive voice, active means that the subject of the sentence is the thing doing something.
 

 

Audio CON’T:
Passive voice means the subject of the sentence is just having something done to it. So, if you see the passive examples, the surveys were distributed by e-mail. So, in that sentence, the surveys are the subject, but surveys aren’t doing anything. They are having something done to them. And the person, or thing creating the action, isn’t present in that sentence.

So, a reader could be confused and say “Well, who…like… How can I know…? How can I assume who distributed these surveys?” So, that’s why passive construction can be sometimes more vague and unclear. So, it’s good to, whenever possible, use active voice so you can say “Brown distributed the surveys by e-mail.”

So, to change from the passive to active, it means rearranging the words a little bit, not just changing the verb. But, keep in mind, that if you want to make it clear to your reader where the action in the sentence is coming from.

 

Visual: A closing slide with the following information:

Questions? – E-mail Writing Support at: writingsupport@waldenu.edu.