psitticism (psitticism) wrote in linguaphiles,
psitticism
psitticism
linguaphiles

Stylistics in English

I just had an article critique I had written for a class returned to me. I can't complain, I got a perfect score on the critique, but my professor insisted, in his comments, that I should have written in the past tense (as in "Johnson wrote that..." instead of "Johnson writes that..."). Somewhat amusingly, he didn't stop at writing "use the past tense," but actually hand-edited every single verb ending in my entire five-page critique. Clearly, this is a big deal to him.

I honestly hadn't thought about my choice of tense, but it seemed logical to me that a critique be written in the present. First, I believe everything I said to still be true! Second, it seems to me the present tense conveys a sense of immediacy I would want in a critique. I would use the past tense for a narrative, much like this post, but in a critique, it sounds a bit weak to me (am I alone here?). Finally, I don't really recall seeing many critiques written in the past tense. I'm not sure I've seen any, actually.

My professor said that the past tense sounds "more professional" and that, as the article was written in the past, it's only right to use the past tense to discuss it. It just seems very odd to me. I get a very different "feel" from the past vs. the present tense, and I definitely would not use the past in this context. I'm really not sure if it's just my personal bias or if there is any basis for it. Any thoughts?

I know it's a style question, and not really linguistics, so I hope you don't mind my asking here. It seems somehow language-related. And if it helps, it was a critique of an article on foreign language education in the US. And it was a bad article.
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