Why You Should Use Present Tense When Writing Literary Reviews And Essays

Literary Reviews

Writing about literature can be tricky; one of the most important decisions a writer must make is tense to convey the story. This article will explore why present tense is preferred when writing literary reviews and essays and how it can make your writing more engaging.

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Introduction to the Use of Present Tense

When you write a literary review or essay, you will often want to use the present tense when discussing the action in the text. There are several reasons why you choose to do this. First, using the present tense makes it clear that you are discussing the events as they occur in the text rather than as they happened in the past. This can be helpful when trying to analyze or interpret the meaning of the text. In addition, using the present tense can help create a sense of immediacy for your reader. It can also make your writing sound more lively and engaging.

Explanation of Historical and Narrative Presents

When you write about literature; it is almost always in the present tense. This is because you are discussing the events in the story as if they are happening now. Reading a review or essay that switches back and forth between past and present tense would be very confusing. 


There are a few exceptions to this rule. If you are discussing an author who is no longer alive or a work published long ago, you will use past tense. For example, you might say, “Shakespeare wrote Hamlet,” or “People used to believe that the earth was flat.” But in general, when you’re discussing a work of fiction, use the present tense.

Reasons for Using Present Tense in Literary Reviews and Essays

There are a few reasons for why you might want to use present tense when writing literary reviews or essays. For one, using the present tense can help create a sense of immediacy for the reader. It can also be helpful in making your argument more convincing. Additionally, using present tense can be useful in establishing a clear and concise timeline for your review or essay.

Examples of Proper Usage

When writing in the present tense, it is important to be clear and concise. This means using proper grammar and avoiding any ambiguity. For example, when discussing a specific work of literature, it is best to use phrases such as “the author,” “the protagonist,” or “the narrator” rather than pronouns like “he” or “she.” This will ensure that your reader understands who you are talking about and avoids any confusion. Additionally, using present tense can help to create a more immediate and engaging experience for the reader. It can also make your argument more persuasive as it will feel more current and relevant.

Advantages & Disadvantages

When it comes to writing literary reviews and essays, there are advantages and disadvantages to using present tense. On the one hand, present tense can make your writing more immediate and engaging for readers. It can also help you to connect more deeply with the characters in a work of fiction. On the other hand, present tense can be difficult to maintain throughout an entire piece, and it can also make your writing sound choppy or unfinished. Ultimately, it is up to you as the writer to decide which tense will work best for your particular project.

Tips on How to Use Present Tense Effectively

When writing in present tense, always use the first person point of view. This will give your writing a sense of immediacy and make it more engaging for the reader. In addition, be sure to use strong verbs to convey the action taking place. For example, instead of “The character is walking down the street,” try “The character strides down the street with purpose.”


With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to write present tense literary reviews and essays that are both effective and engaging!


Writing reviews and essays in the present tense is a great way to bring your readers into the world of literature. It helps them to visualize events as they are being written, rather than looking back on it from a distant point of view. You can also create an emotional connection between your reader and the characters or settings you discuss, making it easier for them to relate to what you write about. This can make reading an enjoyable experience for all involved!

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