November 3, 2023

Using Present Tense Matters

Communication Trends

The art of rhetoric is often misunderstood as manipulative or pushy. Really, it’s the art of effective communication and persuasion using literary devices and compositional techniques.

For example, preaching relies on a few familiar tactics to keep attention and inspire action. These often include:

  • Storytelling
  • Sharing personal experiences
  • Relating a biblical principle to current event
  • Using humour
  • Including surprises

When auditory messages are translated to text, they are often most effective when they include rhetorical questions, repetition, empathy, and a memorable hook.

However, in the commerce world, retailers are discovering persuasion is much simpler. It all comes down to which tense you use in your review.

Ariyh reports that customer reviews written in the present tense are perceived as up to 26% more helpful than reviews written in the past tense.

For example,

  • The seafood was delicious (less persuasive)
  • The seafood is delicious (more persuasive)

Why This Matters

English speakers intuitively think about past tense as a fixed point in time rather than something ongoing. So, when a restaurant’s food is described as having been delicious (past tense), people assume it was good that one time but may not be again. When the food is described as delicious (present tense), then people think of the restaurant as somewhere that serves good food.

This concept can translate from product reviews to almost any other kind of communication. When we talk about an impactful message or person when we use present tense it offers higher confidence and builds trust. When we use past tense to describe an experience, it comes off as subjective and people are less likely to relate to the story.

Next Step

To learn more about how using present tense can help build relationships and trust, click here to read further.