Are you using the correct tense?
There are lots of ways you can improve your writing. For example, use the active voice, vary the length of your sentences and avoid words most people won’t understand. Sometimes even just small changes can make a big difference.
One way is to make sure you’re using the correct tense, particularly when commenting on what someone has said. For example, take this sentence from a recent article in The Economist about monetary policy:
‘At its latest meeting the Federal Reserve said it did not envisage raising interest rates, which are near zero, before the end of 2022.’
The meaning isn’t quite right because ‘did’ suggests policymakers have changed their minds, which they haven’t. The sentence should read:
‘At its latest meeting the Federal Reserve said it does not envisage raising interest rates, which are near zero, before the end of 2022.’
Once you start looking out for this mistake, you’ll notice it’s a common oversight. Here’s another instance, this time from a recent article in the Financial Times:
‘Wirecard’s chief executive Markus Braun resigned on Friday, as the company he built into Europe’s most valuable financial technology group reeled from revelations that €1.9 billion of cash was missing from its bank accounts.
‘With Wirecard’s debt trading at 25 cents on the euro and its shares falling more than 70% in two days, investors were attempting to assess the solvency of a group that processes tens of billions of euros in credit and debit transactions each year.’
Change ‘was’ and ‘were’ to ‘is’ and ‘are’ and you shift the meaning to what’s intended. The cash is still missing and investors are still attempting to assess the situation.
See if you can correct this sentence from a recent article in The Guardian about China’s new digital currency:
‘Xu Yuan, associate professor at Peking University’s national development research institute, told broadcaster CCTV that because cash transactions were offline and transaction data from existing payment platforms was scattered, the central bank was unable to monitor cash flow in real time.’
If you changed the ‘were’ to ‘are’ and the two instances of ‘was’ to ‘is’ then you’ve got the hang of it already.
A clear conversation
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