On my soapbox : ‘Now’ is not a past tense word

On May 7, 2010 by Aimee

In the last two books I’ve read (and probably loads of others), plus a gazillion of the critique’s I’ve written in the last months, the author has used the word ‘now’ while writing in the past tense.


From Dictionary.com:
now   [nou] Show IPA
1. at the present time or moment: You are now using a dictionary.
2. without further delay; immediately; at once: Either do it now or not at all.
3. at this time or juncture in some period under consideration or in some course of proceedings described: The case was now ready for the jury.
4. at the time or moment immediately past: I saw him just now on the street. (this one gives me grief!!!)
5. in these present times; nowadays: Now you rarely see horse-drawn carriages.
6. under the present or existing circumstances; as matters stand: I see now what you meant.
7. (used to introduce a statement or question): Now, you don’t really mean that.
8. (used to strengthen a command, entreaty, or the like): Now stop that!

So I have a HUGE beef with this three-letter word.

If the story that one is writing is written in the past tense, how can the use of the word ‘now’ be anywhere even remotely justified in the narrative? It’s not past tense. It’s present tense. Or perhaps the author has simply ignored conventional wisdom in favor of their own rules?

Egad! Who would do that? πŸ˜‰

Yes, yes, I know, loads of people do, but it’s one of those things (<-- that word is another soapbox issue thanks to Ms. Mason -- my 6th grade English teacher), for another day) that irks me to no end. If I'm reading and the writing is past tense, the word 'now' can only be used on one and only one instance ... in dialog. So, there, I've said it. I'm a word snob and you know why ... because I follow the rules. Or most of them. πŸ™‚