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I spent the past 6 months working on a software project. Now that it is finished, I am writing a report about it. The sentence below describes the purpose of my project:

"The purpose of this project is to allow its users to generate images programmatically."

I am confused about the correct tense for this sentence. Since the purpose has been fulfilled, should I say "The purpose of this project was..."?

I am also unsure about whether the word purpose is the most appropriate one. Consider this version:

"The objective of this project is to allow its users to generate images programmatically."

The same question applies in this case: since the objective has been accomplished, should I say "The objective of this project was...?"

closed as primarily opinion-based by AmE speaker, Nigel J, NVZ, Davo, jimm101 Oct 31 '17 at 16:25

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Was the project the creation of the solution, or is the project the ongoing application of that solution? – Davo Oct 26 '17 at 13:01
  • @Davo good point. I've actually assumed the latter in my answer, possibly incorrectly. – Max Williams Oct 26 '17 at 13:07
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is opinion based. – Nigel J Oct 27 '17 at 2:35
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I'd stick with the present tense: "The purpose of this project is to allow its users to generate images programmatically."

Even though you're not working on the project any more, it still exists, as the thing that was produced. When you talk about its purpose, you're talking about what you want it to do, now that it's a real thing, now and going forwards.

If you use the past tense, then it implies that the purpose has changed, e.g.

"The purpose of this project was to allow its users to generate images programmatically, but it ended up being most useful as a tool to ...."

or that it has failed to meet that aim, e.g.

"The purpose of this project was to allow its users to generate images programmatically, but it failed to do this because ...."

I think that "objective" is a less "emotive" word than "purpose", and thus arguably better. I think that "aim" is possibly better, because it creates a metaphor of the project as an arrow, aimed towards a specific target. A project is a non-sentient, inanimate thing, and so one could argue that it's not possible for it to have a purpose or an objective - these are things that people have. But, I might be splitting hairs here. We do use the word purpose to refer to the intended usage of tools, after all.

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    Were it me, I think, now that it is completed I would relegate the use of the word "project". Since it is no longer a project, why not say "The purpose of the new software (created from my recent project) is to turn men into women and vice-versa" - or whatever it is that it does? The words in parentheses are optional. – WS2 Oct 26 '17 at 16:19
  • WS2, possibly, yeah, but some people still talk about it as a project after it's been released. Software is rarely finished: the release may be "V1" but development, and therefore the project, continues based on feedback from users, bug reports etc. – Max Williams Oct 27 '17 at 13:15
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"Now that it is finished," you would use the past tense:

"The purpose of this project was to allow its users to generate images programmatically."

From what you've written, it appears that you were successful.

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