1. I’ve always struggled with the right way to use “had,” so thanks for clarifying a muddy topic for me, Rachel. I’ll print this out and use it for reference when I proofread.

    Related to this topic, I’ve read comments by other experts that if one is writing a scene with a memory or flashback, one needs to use “had” once or twice to establish the time reference as being in the past, then it’s okay to leave it out for the rest of the scene. Care to comment on that idea?

  2. Rachel

    Hi Chris!
    In terms of a memory/flashback, I think you can handle it in a couple of ways. The easiest is to set off the text with extra space and/or italicize it, so there’s a big visual cue for the reader. In that case, you probably wouldn’t need to use “had” at all. If you don’t want to go that route, you’d definitely need to use “had,” at least at the beginning to ease you in. Whether you keep using it throughout is a personal choice, IMO. I’d just read through the section to see if it’s clear enough as-is and then decide.

  3. Nicole Dimond

    My husband had been getting after me all week about using the past perfect tense in my work and now here’s this blog post. He’s laughing pretty hard right now. Good info. Thanks Rachael!

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