RE: Future Tense Controversy

Subject: RE: Future Tense Controversy
From: "Lisa Wright" <liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2004 22:34:31 -0800

Well, if you're describing policies and procedures, you're describing things
that should be happening now, and therefore it makes sense to write them in
present tense. It's not so much that it's technical writing, but that you
are describing what IS, and not what will be. My question when I read
something in future tense is, "so is this not happening now?" If the lawyers
want to provoke that sort of question, well, they should understand that
it's going to raise a lot of questions.

Putting it in future tense won't make it passive (unless you try).

I'm sure this is frustrating. This may be a legacy from their training in
legal writing. (I seem to recall a lot of future tense in contracts and

You could also present it as a matter of cost. How much will it cost to go
back and rewrite everything in the future tense? (Note the appropriate use
of future tense!) Or is this just a change from this point forward?

<shrug> I dunno. Seems like they'd have better things to do. Is your
management helping you with this or did they leave it to you?


-----Original Message-----
From: bounce-techwr-l-53104 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
[mailto:bounce-techwr-l-53104 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com] On Behalf Of
marybl -at- libertymedical -dot- com
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2004 7:32 AM
Subject: Future Tense Controversy

Hi, I'm new to the list and am hoping to get some feedback on an issue that
has come up with our corporate lawyers.

Our department writes training manuals, IS user manuals, and company
policies and procedures. We have always written these in present tense,
active voice. The lawyers are now wanting us to write everything in future
tense (and thus putting it in passive voice).

Needless to say, the writers are not happy with this new edict, as we
believe that present tense and active voice should always be used in
technical writing. The lawyers are saying what we do is not 'technical
writing'! My question is, can any of you direct me to sources regarding what
is and what is not considered 'technical writing' and also sources that
define rules for using present and future tense in technical writing.

Mary Block


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