How to write a personal diary ? [which tense?]

gachette71

Senior Member
Belgium - French
Good afternoon all.

Imagine I want to write a personal diary. Which tense should I use ? The simple present, the present perfect, or the simple past ?

I'd like to relate what happened on that day, so I would be writing at the end of each day.

Or maybe I could use all those three tenses ? Please help me ! I really need your help.
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I think the simple past is the traditional. That's what most diary-style blogs use as well. That said, anyone can choose to write their diary in whatever style they prefer, of course.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I write mine in whatever tense is most appropriate for whatever I happen to be writing about. Having said that, it's generally in the simple past because I write it the day after.
     

    gachette71

    Senior Member
    Belgium - French
    And what if you want to write it at the end of the day ? Would you use the simple past or the present perfect simple (today) ?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I'd use the past simple unless I was talking about an ongoing activity, in which case I'd use the present perfect progressive:
    This morning I went to Marks & Spencer. Wow, that was exciting. Otherwise, I've been painting again all day, just like every day.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I'd use the past simple unless I was talking about an ongoing activity, in which case I'd use the present perfect progressive:
    This morning I went to Marks & Spencer. Wow, that was exciting. Otherwise, I've been painting again all day, just like every day.

    Doubleplusgood point.
     

    gachette71

    Senior Member
    Belgium - French
    And - last question - what about the simple present ? I know you can use it to tell a story, but what about a diary ?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Blog ≠ diary, in the opinion of this diary-writer who grew up before the age when everyone thought everyone else might be interested in their humdrum lives.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Blog ≠ diary, in the opinion of this diary-writer who grew up before the age when everyone thought everyone else might be interested in their humdrum lives.

    Oi, I happen to know that lots of people ARE interested in my blog! LOL

    I never use the present tense in it, though, unless for some mildly comic effect of showing the story in a lively way. Which is not unusual in first person narratives of various sorts.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Anne Frank used all the tenses in her diary. It is now world famous, but she was writing it for herself. Yes, it was in Dutch, but the languages are similar enough as far as tense usage.

    Of course, in your diary, you can use, or decline to use, any tense whatever.
     

    Ainur

    Member
    Kazakh
    In my country the teachers of the English language asked us to mind the sequence of tenses, whenever we tried to write or talk to each other.
    Is it so important?
    Very often the native speakers use simple tenses in speech and maybe in writing. Am I right?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In my country the teachers of the English language asked us to mind the sequence of tenses, whenever we tried to write or talk to each other.
    Is it so important?
    Very often the native speakers use simple tenses in speech and maybe in writing. Am I right?
    It depends. Some of us (think we) use tenses correctly and appropriately, even in diaries. Others don't.
    I think it's important.
    And perhaps like many other aspects of English, it is important to be able to do it correctly and formally - first.

    In my diary I wouldn't use the narrative present/present continuous, but if I were abstracting from the diary for a wider readership I might well do. Similarly, if I were a blogger I'm sure I would write the more colourful narratives in this way.
     

    mickmmm

    New Member
    French -English
    I was curious about this situation. I often write long 'diary' following holidays. I thought it makes it more attractive and "as it happens" by using the present tense. However it's quite tricky. Your brain knows the action has passed and automatically think in past tense. So I go through the motion to convert all my notes to the present tense but somehow it does not quite work. It seems more natural to use the past tense. I won't go in the different forms of past (I was already useless in school on that subject!) So I'm thinking now to just stick to the past tense, not firmly I do understand that when it's appropriate any tense is be fitting, and may be more creative. But trying to stick to the present in past event is no easy!
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Is someone else going to be looking at your diary, mickmmm? If not, you are free to write in it whatever you want. It's like talking to yourself - a future self who may one day be interested in finding out what sort of person he used to be.

    If you're writing it as part of an assignment, perhaps you should check with the person who set the assignment. If I understand correctly, you aren't writing your diary in your first language.

    Edit: If you are simply recording events, it seems sensible to use the simple past throughout.
     
    Last edited:

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It's your diary, so it's your choice. :)

    Looking at mine (which I haven't updated for almost a year :oops:) I use a mixture of the simple past and the present, depending on what I'm writing about. If I'm reminiscing I use the past: if I'm writing about what I'm doing now or planning to, I use the present. :)
     

    mickmmm

    New Member
    French -English
    Like I said I was just curious about different opinions on this but realise I can do what I want. It is not an assignment, still it's possible some members of my family will read it because it quite substantial with photos and much description. So it should be reasonably well written. And this discussion helps me to decide. So Thank you
     
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