Choosing the Right Tense to Craft Effective Response Letters

Tenses get you tense? Fret not, let’s untangle the grammatical web in crafting that all-important response letter. Peer review reports can be daunting, but mastering the art of tenses in your replies need not be. 

In academia, peer review plays an important role in refining ideas and knowledge. Therefore, the importance of employing good language and maintaining a polite tone in response letters cannot be overstated. Beyond the mere exchange of information, these letters serve as a reflection of scholarly professionalism. Constructive criticism and feedback, when delivered with courtesy, not only uphold the integrity of the academic community but also encourage a collaborative spirit among researchers. A well linguistically-polished response letter not only navigates the complexities of the peer review process more smoothly but also cultivates a positive and respectful scholarly environment.

The Tense Trio — Past, present, future 

Before delving into the nuances, let’s get reacquainted with our old friends - past, present and future tenses, to build a better understanding.

Although they seem simple, there are intricacies within these three basic tenses. Let’s explore further!


Past Tense

Present Tense

Future Tense

The Past tense is your go-to when narrating completed actions or events.

The present tense takes the stage when acknowledging limitations or outlining current understanding.

The future tense steps in while anticipating future work or improvements.

For example, "I received your feedback" succinctly places the action in the past, providing clarity to the reader.


For example, "We acknowledge these limitations" reflects an ongoing acknowledgment of the existing situation.


For example, "In our upcoming studies, we will use a larger sample size" is a prime example of projecting actions into the future.



Simple vs. Not-So-Simple Tenses

In crafting a response letter, the strategic use of both simple and present perfect tenses is paramount to convey the message with clarity. While the ‘simple past tense’ is ideal for detailing actions or findings, the ‘present perfect tense’ comes into play when addressing concerns that have been dealt with but remain relevant. 

For instance, consider this sentence: "We have reviewed carefully and have addressed all the concerns raised by the reviewers." Here, the present perfect tense "have reviewed" and "have addressed" is employed to convey that addressing the concerns is a completed action with ongoing implications in the present. 

The simple past tense is appropriately employed to narrate completed actions and observations. For instance, "We conducted experiments to validate the hypothesis, and the results confirmed our expectations." Here, the simple past tense "conducted" and "confirmed" conveys actions that occurred and were completed in the past.

By strategically blending these tenses, the response letter not only chronicles past efforts but also emphasises the current state of affairs. This ensures that the response is both temporally accurate and contextually precise, facilitating a more effective communication of ideas to the peer reviewers.

Crafting a response letter isn't just about adhering to grammatical rules; it's about leaving a lasting impression on the reviewers. A well-crafted and grammatically correct letter not only showcases your dedication to research but also speaks volumes about your professionalism.

Crafting a response letter is indeed a nuanced task. If the intricacies of tenses are challenging for you, consider seeking assistance. Professional editing services like Charlesworth Author Services can provide the polish needed to elevate your response letter to its full potential.

As you navigate the maze of tenses in your response letter, remember that clarity is key. Ensure that your choice of tense aligns seamlessly with the context, leaving no room for ambiguity. A concise and articulate letter not only makes the reviewers' job easier but also positions one as a meticulous researcher.


Share with your colleagues