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Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading
Q. I’m currently editing a manuscript for a children’s fiction book that has been written in present tense. A few months back, when Americanizing another manuscript, I changed it from present tense to past tense. Although I have no citable rule to back up my decision, I feel as if these books should be written in past tense. Present tense just sounds odd for children’s fiction. Is this a paradigm that I should be willing to ignore, or is there an arguable reason that I have this tendency? I would appreciate any rationale you have to offer.
A. The choice of tense is so personal, and so critical to a fiction writer’s purpose, that it would seem rash to restrict an entire genre like children’s books to a single tense. Many excellent children’s books have been written in the present tense. If you feel that the past tense would improve the book, however, rewrite a paragraph or two and send it to the author for discussion.