ILLOGICAL SHIFTS. Online Writing Center, Darton State College

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1 ILLOGICAL SHIFTS Online Writing Center, Darton State College

2 Illogical Shifts Consistency in writing is important to preserve clarity and smooth flow. To be consistent, avoid unnecessary shifts 1. in person 2. in number 3. in verb tense 4. in tone 5. in voice, and 6. in discourse (Harris 130)

3 1. Shifts in Person When writing a paper, we choose a person that is appropriate for the task. For example, personal essays and autobiographies are written in first person. Formal papers are written in third person. Once you determine the appropriate person, stay with it. Person Singular Plural First person (the person(s) speaking) Second person the person(s) spoken to Third person The person(s) spoken about I, me, myself, my, mine we, us, ourselves, our, ours You, yourself, your, yours he, him, himself, his she, herself, her, hers it, itself, its you, yourselves, your, yours they, themselves, their, theirs

4 Shifts in Person cont. *When I was accepting the gold medal, you could not believe how good it felt. (There is an unnecessary, illogical shift from I to you. ) Correction: When I was accepting the gold medal, I could not believe how good it felt. In informal speech, such a shift is common and is accepted. However, it should not occur in writing. * Incorrect sentence

5 2. Shifts in Number *When a student turns in an assignment, they should make sure that they are free of errors. The shift here is between the pronouns and their antecedents. Singular antecedents (the words for which the pronouns stand in) should be followed by singular pronouns. Plural antecedents should be followed by plural pronouns. Corrections: 1. When a student turns in an assignment, he or she should make sure that it is free of errors. (everything is singular) 2. When students turn in assignments, they should make sure that the assignments are free of errors. (Everything is plural and the word assignment is restated to avoid confusion on to whom or to what they refers.)

6 3. Shifts in Verb Tense Verb tenses indicate to the reader when something happened (past), happens (present), or will happen (future). Unnecessary shifts in the tense is confusing to the reader; therefore, once you choose the appropriate tense, stay with it. Mrs. Mallard is initially shocked to hear that her husband is dead. However, slowly, she was becoming relieved, realizing that freedom awaited her. Error: Here, the first sentence is in present tense, but then the tense is unnecessarily shifted to the past tense in the second sentence. Correction: Mrs. Mallard is initially shocked to hear that her husband is dead. However, slowly, she is becoming relieved, realizing that freedom awaits her.

7 4. Shifts in Tone Similarly to person, the tone of the paper also must be decided in advance. For example, formal papers call for a formal tone. Tone is mostly indicated by word choices; therefore, word choices should be made carefully, avoiding slang and other colloquialisms. Word usage should be consistent throughout to avoid shifts in tone. Formal: In the growing cities, police officers have seen increased truancy. Informal: In the growing cities, cops have seen kids cutting school go up.

8 5. Shifts in Voice Shifts in voice happens when writers shift from active voice to passive voice. The mistake of illogical shift in voice occurs when the shift is illogical, nonsensical. (For more on verb tense and for a more complete list of verb tenses, see Verb Tenses in the Online Writing Center.) Verb tense Active voice Passive voice Simple Present Eve kicks the ball. The ball is kicked (by Eve). Present Progressive Eve is kicking the ball. The ball is being kicked (by Eve). Simple Past Eve kicked the ball. The ball was kicked (by Eve). Past Perfect Eve had kicked the ball. The ball had been kicked (by Eve). Simple Future Eve will kick the ball. The ball will be kicked (by Eve). Future Perfect Eve will have kicked the ball. The will have been kicked (by Eve).

9 5a. Shifts in Voice cont. In some way, passive voice has a bad reputation. Overusing it is definitely not a good idea, but passive voice has its place in our language. Use it sparingly, and avoid shifting between active and passive voices within the same sentence.

10 6. Shifts in Discourse Shifts in discourse are often the result of switching between direct and indirect speech. In direct speech, writers report speech verbatim: My doctor said, Your blood results show abnormalities. You need further tests. In indirect speech, some words and even the verb tense and/or mood change: My doctor said that my blood results showed abnormalities and that I needed further tests. Illogical shift: My doctor said that my blood results show abnormalities and that I will need further tests.

11 Work Cited Harris, Muriel. Prentice Hall Reference Guide. 7 th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2008.

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