Watch Out for Squirrels: Defusing Tense Copy Situations

To make for cleaner, more memorable copy, be consistent with your use of verb tense in your headings. Readers like patterns, and it will help them remember the points you are making. For example, if you're a gardening supply store and you're publishing an article or a brochure that contains gardening tips, your first subhead might read:

1) Take Care of Your Garden Utensils

Since you used the present form of the verb take in your first tip, your next tip should use that same verb form. Therefore, instead of your second tip reading Watching Out for Squirrels, which uses the gerund form (-ing) of watch, it should be:

2) Watch Out for Squirrels

Keeping verbs in the same tense creates parallelism in the phrases, which subconsciously makes your message more memorable for the reader and also looks more streamlined on the page.

Speaking of patterns, you should be just as discriminating about your verb choices. In the example above, since the verbs take and watch are already used, then your next subhead should not incorporate either of them. Instead of Take Time Out to Smell the Roses, replace the verb:

3) Grant Yourself Time to Smell the Roses

Word variation will make your copy more polished.

Thanks for reading,


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