WRITING USER-FRIENDLY DOCUMENTS
A document written in the present tense is more immediate and
Using the present tense makes your document more direct and forceful. The more you
use conditional or future tense, the harder your reader has to work to understand your
meaning. Writing entirely in the present tense saves your reader work and
helps you to make your point clearly.
|These sections describe types of information
that would satisfy the application requirements of Circular A-110 as it would
apply to this grant program.||These sections tell you how to meet the
requirements of Circular A-110 for this grant program.|
Even if you are covering an event that occurred in the past, you can clarify the material
for your reader by writing as much as possible in the present tense.
|Applicants who were Federal employees at the time that the injury was sustained should
have filed a compensation request at that time. Failure to do so could have an effect on
the degree to which the applicant can be covered under this part.||
You may not be covered under this part if:|
(a) You were a Federal employee at the
time of the injury; and
(b) You did not file a report with us at that
You help your reader understand and relate to your document if you eliminate the need
for him or her to "translate" the text from the past or conditional tense into the present.
Remember, the less work your reader has to do to understand, the better
he or she can follow your instructions.
Occasionally, of course, tenses may be necessary. For example, NEPA documents frequently refer to what may happen in the future if certain events occur.
But use tenses other than the present only when necessary for accuracy.
Write in the present tense to communicate more efficiently.