Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Want to write gooder? Use “back in” more

stephen_colbert_finger_wagIf there’s one writing habit I simply adore, it’s seeing a writer use “back in” when referencing previous years or months.

For example: “Back in 1845…” or “Back in December.” In such instances, the leading “back in” solidifies my otherwise horrible sense of time. Without that “back in,” I’d be completely lost.

Just today, reading a cryptic “In 1997” left me utterly confused. Since I have no concept of past, present, or future tense verb usage, I wasn’t 100% certain the writer was referencing history.

Worse is when a concise writer references a previous month without the oh-so-enlightening “back in.” After all, it’s not like the reader can assume you’re talking about a previous month, especially since you didn’t also reference a year. Case in point: Is “In July” talking about past July or next July? It’s ambiguous. I mean, next we’ll be asking writers to say “next” when referencing the future. It’s unheard of.

So remember writers: Never assume a reader understands chronology. As such, always say “back in” when referring to the past. It’s not wordy or presumptuous at all.