Inconsistent Verb Tenses
In formal writing, it is important to keep verb tenses consistent so that readers can follow the progress of ideas and arguments easily. In creative writing, verb tenses may be used inconsistently for effect, but in academic writing, it is important to use verb tenses consistently throughout a paper, carefully signaling any necessary shifts in tense.

Incorrect:
Elizabeth Peabody was born in a school and thereafter felt destined to be a teacher. Her mother was a teacher and trains her daughters at her side. The academic life seems to suit Elizabeth, who thrived on the rigorous curriculum.

Was, felt, and thrived are past tense; trains and seems are present tense. All of the action in the passage above occurred in the past, so all of the verbs there should be in the past tense.

Correcting Inconsistent Tenses:

Correct:
Elizabeth Peabody was born in a school and thereafter felt destined to be a teacher. Her mother was a teacher and trained her daughters at her side. The academic life seemed to suit Elizabeth, who thrived on the rigorous curriculum.

Sometimes in academic writing, it is necessary to signal to the reader that one event was completed in the past before another past event occurred. This is where the perfect form of verbs can be used (have + verb).

Correct:
By the time Peabody joined the kindergarten movement, most of her Transcendentalist friends had died.

The phrase "by the time" signals that the action in the second clause occurred before the action in the first clause. This kind of signal helps the reader follow any shifts in time.

    
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