Simple Present

I’ve been noticing a lot of the following in technical papers:

Bad Examples:
Figures 1 and 2 are showing the Hall Plots for these two wells.
Table 3 is showing the contracts that will be up for renewal in 2014.

This verb tense is called the Present Continuous, which is used to express something that is happening now over a period of time. It is made up of am/is/are plus the present participle (–ing).

Unlike your favorite movie that “is showing” at the theater and is going to stop showing in a few weeks, Figures 1 and 2 and Table 3 are not going to stop showing. A much better way to write this is to use the simple present, “show,” which is used to state a fact.

Corrected Examples:
Figures 1 and 2 show the Hall Plots for these two wells.
Table 3 shows the contracts that will be up for renewal in 2014.

I’ve also been seeing a lot of the following flowery frou-frou:
Figure 1 illustrates….
Figure 2 depicts…..
Table 3 enumerates….

There’s a writing maxim that is heard at virtually every writing club or critique group meeting:
“Show, don’t tell.”
The fancy verbs get in the way of what the real meat of the sentence is, which is what follows the verb: the words that describe what the figures and table actually show.

Think of the simple present “show” as being similar to attributions of quotations using a simple “said” instead of: opined, declared, stated, uttered, answered, replied, exclaimed, cried…. You’re not writing a novel if it has figures and tables in it.

——————————————
Profound Quote of the Day:
“I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.”
– Bill Gates, rich American businessman, b. 1955
——————————————

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