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I would like to place a statistics in front of the sentence, followed by the agency that has reported it. The findings and reports were done many years ago. Which of the two is correct and why?

  1. Nearly 10 million Americans accept..., the U. S. Office of Public Affairs reports.
  2. Nearly 10 million Americans accept..., the U. S. Office of Public Affairs reported.

Likewise, should it be "Americans accept" or "Americans accepted"?

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The correct form of constructing these sentences depends on the recommended/ applicable style in the context. Ask also on writersSE. Check the style guide applicable to your document. Grammatically it is possible to construct the sentences either way. – Kris Nov 3 '12 at 11:44
Well, I'm writing an academic paper, specifically a Position Paper if it does affect the way that the sentence should be structured. – Karen Nov 3 '12 at 11:51
It can be assumed from the context that the report has not been superseded so far, and the data is currently valid. There appears to be no reason to use the past tense in the absence of any other factor. – Kris Nov 3 '12 at 11:57
Style guides vary. MLA, widely used in US humanities departments, embraces the present tense for your 'reports'; APA, used in social sciences, deprecates it. As to accept/accepted, that will depend on the reference time of your data. – StoneyB Nov 3 '12 at 12:12
@Kris I thank you for your comment! Am I right to say that the correct sentence should then be "Nearly 10 million Americans accept ...., the U.S. Office of Public Affairs reports. – Karen Nov 3 '12 at 12:13

If the findings were reported "many years ago" then that should be made explicit in your Position Paper.

Once the date is included in the sentence, then both "report" and "accept" will be forced into the past tense.

Failure to do so represents an implicit claim (by you) that the situation is unchanged since the original report. Such a claim probably requires justification.

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+1 APA takes the position that all such data, having been published before the time of writing, must be cast in the past tense. MLA is followed primarily by writers on works which 'endure' into the present, and is accordingly less strict. – StoneyB Nov 3 '12 at 12:37

From the perspective of content and rigour, this depends a bit on discipline (eg MLA for humanities vs APA for social sciences), as well as on the reasonableness of the extrapolation from many years ago till now, and your willingness to be accountable for the extrapolation. If you intend to imply that the results are still valid, use 'accept'; if you don't want to be responsible for that extrapolation, 'accepted' would be better.

From a stylistic perspective, it can seem pedantic and infelicitous to switch tenses to maintain complete accuracy, depending on the surrounding text and its style. Nonetheless, rigour of thought and expression in many academic contexts are more important than mellifluous readability.

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