1

I am in the process of writing documentation for a software project. I would like to understand what would be the best tense to use for the description of the code/tools that had been (?) developed by the time I started writing the document.

For example, consider the following sentence:

This document describes the programming conventions used in the library development, the library directory structure and the supplementary tools that were/have been/had been developed to support and manage the library development. The main part of the library is/were/have been/had been written in C++.

What would be the best tense to use in each case?

6
  • There is no "best"answer. Which tense do you think works best, or better, and why? All three are 'grammatical', depending on the overall context, ie it's hard to judge the usage of perfect aspects based on one sentence. (And present perfect is not a past tense.) – user6951 May 2 '15 at 18:32
  • @pazzo Thank you for your comment. I understand that this is context dependent. Here I am trying to refer to the tools that have been (?) developed by the time I started writing the sentence. The sentence is meant to be used in a software documentation document. I would also appreciate if you could explain in what context would I need to use which tense. – user19381 May 2 '15 at 19:12
  • "....that have been developed" is the best choice if the preceding "used" could be restated "which are used" and not "which were used". – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 2 '15 at 21:20
  • My boss would insist on everything being in present tense: This document describes the programming conventions, library directory structure, and supplementary tools that are used to support and manage the library development. – Jim May 2 '15 at 21:23
  • Is this an ongoing development project, or is this documentation supposed to be like a final report as you hand off maintenance to someone else? – cpast May 4 '15 at 1:30
0

You say in the comments that this sentence describes an "ongoing development project". I assume then that the context is an interim report of some sort, in which you are reporting the project's current status.

That being the case, you should probably cast everything in the present perfect, whose fundamental sense is a current state arising out of past eventualities. For the adjectival clauses you may employ participle clauses rather than full relatives:

This document describes the programming conventions used in the library development, the library directory structure, and the supplementary tools developed to support and manage the library development. The main part of the library has been written in C++.

But nobody would quarrel with you if you wrote that the main part was written in C++.

It's pretty wordy, thanks mostly to a bunch of clunky nominalizations, and it's needlessly passive. I'd be inclined to write:

This document describes the programming conventions, directory structure and supplementary tools we've used so far in developing the library. We've written the main part of the library in C++.

—shorter by nearly a quarter, and a lot friendlier and easier to read.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy