Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Business Basics for Today’s Writer—Think Ahead When You Reference Time

You don't have to write science fiction to get caught in a time warp.

We all write about time more often than you think. From my writer’s bio where I share how long I’ve been married, to the announcement about my newest books coming out next month, I give time clues to inform my audience. But do I do it in a way that makes time clearer or muddies the issue?

The truth is, it's HOW a writer references time that makes the difference.

We don’t live in a static universe. Time passes, and what was relevant last week, last month, even last year, has changed. 

And if we don’t give solid time references we leave those reading what we’ve written adrift and uncertain where they are.

For example, it’s exciting news that my newest books are releasing next month. But suppose someone reads that announcement online in November of this year? Will the reader think the books are coming in December? Not good, considering they will have debuted in September. But with the words, next month, there’s no definitive time. Instead, it’s much better and more accurate to say my newest books are coming out September 2013.

This kind of inaccuracies occur all over the Internet. Don’t add to the chaos, learn to give your audience the time clues they need to anchor them securely. Here are some things to avoid, when possible:
  • Don’t state how long something happened. Instead give the approximate date when it started. For example, not I started writing for pay 27 years ago, instead I’ve been writing since 1986.
  • Don’t give vague references, like next week, next month, or even next year. Instead give us solid dates, like the name of the month and the year.
  • Don’t assume your audience is reading this when you write it. This is particularly true when you write books and/or print articles. Instead of saying the newest research reflects such-and-such truth, add the phrase at this time in front of the that statement.

Now it’s your turn. What bugs you about time clues (or lack thereof)? How do you keep your audience grounded in time?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. Really great points Edie! I bet a lot of people haven't thought about the relativity of their time statements. Thanks for getting me to think about this. I'll keep your tips in mind while writing blog posts- because I hope people will still be reading them months from now!

  2. Very helpful points. Occasionally, when I am blogging, I purposely keep specific times and dates vague for privacy or security reasons. I will have to put more thought in how to improve this without compromising safety issues. Thanks, Edie.

  3. I would have never thought of this. Thanks!

  4. Great points, Edie. I get so ticked at myself when I look at one of my journals and it only has the month and day recorded. I have not idea how long ago I wrote it! But I'm learning to put the full date.

  5. I schedule my blog posts, so I'm aware of seasonal/time references. I'm only vague when the timing of an event is tentative. For example: I don't have a date for the release of my next book, so I refer to it as "within the next few months."