Insight of the Week
October 20, 2023

List Completed Services in the Present Tense

A recent study confirmed that language is more persuasive when framed in the present tense.

Home inspection summary: porch is stable, faucet looks good, I don't see termites


Services feel more valuable in the present tense.

After inspecting a home, a contractor might say:

  • Past: Faucet looked good.
  • Present: Faucet looks good.

Each sentence activates a different mental image:

  • Faucet looked good. Work is completed.
  • Faucet looks good. Work is still happening. Even now.

In one study, people believed that John painted more houses when they read an ongoing action (John was painting houses) instead of a completed action (John painted houses; Matlock, 2011).

Ongoing frames depict a mental image of the labor:

"John painted houses" with an image of John standing in front of a house, and "John was painting houses" with an image of John physically painting a house

It also happens with customer reviews.

Researchers analyzed 2 million Amazon reviews, and they confirmed that reviews get more helpful votes when they're framed in the present tense (Fang & Maglio, 2024).

  • ...was great. Benefits have stopped.
  • ...will be great. Benefits haven't happened yet.
  • great. Benefits are still happening.


  • Check Your Service-Related Copy. When possible, frame completed actions in the present. Check service reports, sales calls, outreach messages, and customer support.

Other New Studies

  • Low Vibrations Increase the Pain of Paying - Researchers tested payment vibrations (e.g., none, low, high) in a mobile app. Ironically, low vibrations were most painful. Customers felt like they were losing more money (Manshad & Brannon, 2021).
  • The QWERTY Effect - Researchers replicated the QWERTY effect: Right-handed people prefer words that contain letters from the right side of a keyboard (e.g., jump, milky, nylon). Something about them feels right. Pun intended.
  • AI Leads to Unethical Behaviors - Customers behave properly in front of humans. But in front of AI? They lie, cheat, and steal. People are more likely to cheat on their taxes if they use software (vs. human advisor; LaMothe & Bobek, 2020).