I've recently noticed an irritating trend in English-language writing: sections that really should be written in the past perfect tense are instead in the simple past tense. I've seen this more in American English than in British English, but that might just be confirmation bias. Is there a reason for this, for example a new style of teaching in schools or universities? And is it really new, or am I just looking for things to get annoyed about?
The example that pushed me to write this question was in this article
, linked from the front page:
At the time of the Headroom hack, broadcast signal intrusions were considered a rare phenomenon, limited to small stations with lower power transmissions, and requiring special knowledge and equipment that was estimated to cost up to a hundred thousand dollars.
But the prospect of a new form of pranksterism—or protest, or even terrorism—began to emerge a year and a half earlier, on April 27, 1986.
Surely that should say, "had begun to emerge." The Headroom hack is referred to in the simple past, and the new form of pranksterism emerged before
those events, so it should be referred to in the past perfect tense. The British Council has my back there.
I wouldn't mind so much if this was only happening in online articles, but I have read whole novels where the past perfect barely shows its face. One book in particular had a large cast of characters and for each of them, a chapter or two was spent reflecting on the events in their past that had brought them to this point. With everything written in the simple past tense, it was sometimes hard to parse out what was backstory and what was happening in the main plot. This was a thriller, so perhaps this style of writing was intended to make things more exciting?
Any insight on why writers have begun to do this terrible, wrong, awful thing would be appreciated, and any flaws in my own grammar in this question will be put down to Muphry's Law