To help keep our articles coherent and standard, it is best to use appropriate grammar, mainly choosing the proper tense. Certain articles would work best when written in past tense (such as narrating events in the series), while some would be better described using the present tense (such as explaining an ability). The following are recommended uses of certain verb tenses.
The present tense depicts actions that occur in the present. Basically, it tells of actions happening right now. Generally accepted truths or facts also fall into this tense (i.e., The Sun is a star, Europe is a continent).
Present tense must be used on:
- description or definition of abilities, skills, and to an extent, weaknesses
- Telekinesis is the ability to...
- Pyrokinesis refers to...
- describing objects, places or weapons that are currently active
- The 1967 Chevrolet Impala is the car of...
- Heaven is a supernatural dimension...
- describing the current possession of abilities, skills and weaknesses
- Kevin is able to read the tablet...
- The Winchesters are well-versed in the exorcism rite.
- Humans usually die when the demon possessing them...
- describing the current state of characters, objects or weapons, whether still active or otherwise (compare and contrast to #2, which describes topics that are currently active. It is a bit confusing, but just remember that how a person or object is doing currently is the key.)
- Sam is no longer able to use demonic powers as he no longer ingests demon blood.
- The current location of the colt is unknown.
- Castiel seeks redemption from the mistakes he made...
- The Order of Letters is extinct.
- Bobby Singer is dead.
- describing characters that are alive, active or still existing
- Dean is a hunter...
- Crowley reigns over hell.
- generally accepted truths or facts (Notes: This overlaps on the previous categories, but consider that some general truths about inactive, deceased and extinct characters/species/orders are written in the past [see past tense use below] i.e., The Order of Letters is extinct. It was comprised of men who were.... In the first sentence, it is a description of the current state of the Order of Letters. Meanwhile, the second sentence describes how the Order was in the past).
- Vampires are monsters.
- Atropos is one of the fates.
- Reapers are neutral.
- Enochian is the language of...
Actions or events that are still ongoing must be described in the continuous or progressive tense.
- Kevin is deciphering the tablet (as of pre-episode 8.14)
- Dean and Sam are trying to close the gates of hell (as of mid-season 8)
- Sam is reading a lot of the books left behind by the Men of Letters.
This refers to actions or events that took place in the past. Observing the use of this term is very important and is, in my opinion, one of the most improperly used tenses in our wiki.
The past tense must be used on:
- Narrating events(!) within the canon. This includes episode synopses, season-long summaries, and history subsections of character biographies. We document the events after they occured within the canon, and not during or before it unfolds. Of course, there are certain exceptions, such as narrating events that are still continuing, or if certain events are still progressing into the next episode, or even into the next season [see usage of Continuous/Progressive Tense].
- John Winchester became a hunter after Mary died.
- Bobby was killed by Dick Roman.
- Anna Milton urged Castiel to question his orders.
- Abaddon killed Henry Winchester by inflicting...
- In 1973, John was in a relationship with Mary.
- Dean was trained as a hunter at a young age. By the time he was a sixth-grader, he was able to assemble a gun from scratch.
- describing the past status of now inactive, lost, destroyed objects, weapons and places, or describing events relating to such.
- The colt was used against Lucifer but to no avail.
- Bobby Singer's house was used by the brothers as...
- Description of use of powers and abilities (compare and contrast against present tense use #1, which describes the ability, not the use).
- Ruby cast a spell...
- Tammi stopped a bullet from the colt using Telekinesis.
- describing permanently dead or no longer existing characters
- Rufus was a hunter...
- Ruby was a black-eyed demon...
- ranks, abilities or powers that were present before, but are no longer possessed
- Michael acted as the leader of the heavenly host...
- Dean used to have the powers of Death when he wore...
- Sam had the power to exorcise demons with his mind...
- Famine could cause insatiable hunger and craving...
- Alastair could survive looking directly at Anna when she transformed to an angel, although the demon's host could not.
Flexibility/Apparent Conflicts in Using Tenses Edit
As you may have noticed, there are many ways to describe a certain event or character in the series without having to rely on just one tense. It all depends on how you choose your words. Consider the following:
- Naomi is controlling Castiel. vs. Castiel is under Naomi's control.
- Both are proper in writing, although the first one emphasizes the progressive aspect of the action, while the second is a general truth in the present tense.
- Bobby is dead. vs. Bobby was a hunter who acted as a surrogate father to Sam and Dean.
- Again both are correct. Sure, Bobby is dead. However, the first sentence describes his current condition, while the second one describes how he was when he was still alive.
- Hell is downsized. vs. Hell was downsized when Castiel took the role of God.
- The first one is a description of the current status of hell, and thus, is correct. The second one is a narrative on when Hell was downsized. It is also correct as per the tense guideline.
- Sam is no longer able to access his psychic powers. vs. Sam used to have psychic powers.
- Both are correct and usable. Observe for the tense of the entire paragraph, subsection or article. Follow which tense is most applicable. With a little tweaking, you could instead come up with: 'Sam used to have psychic powers but he is no longer able to use them ever since he stopped ingesting demon blood.' Sentence construction could be complex, and the guideline I proposed is only for basic sentences and only acts as a general reference. Basically, it all depends on what article you are writing, what subsection you are editing, and what is your intent.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that contractions are often undesirable in written communication designed to follow formal or scholarly work. Therefore, it is highly recommended that editors avoid using contractions, such as "it's", "they're" or "can't", in articles. Their use, however, is of little concern in discussions on the talk pages or blog posts.