Usage and Grammar

Q. I work with middle-school students who produce a yearbook. Does it matter what tense they write in? There appear to be two views: past tense, because the events have passed and the kids are no longer in the mentioned year, and present tense, because past tense can simply seem weird. (For instance, writing about the school’s mascot—a live Labrador—in past tense seems morbid.) Still, most students like the notion of writing in the past tense, as it suggests they’ve moved to the next grade.

A. It sounds as though you are willing to encourage the kids to make an editorial decision, and that’s probably more important than which decision they make. Maybe you could find samples of other schools’ yearbooks and other kinds of memoirs written in different tenses and ask your students to argue about it and vote.