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I am just beginning to get serious about the way I write, furthermore I’m a very cautious writer so I would just like to know if these simple paragraphs are correct. I am trying to clarify both my use of the word “have”, in the first paragraph, and whether or not it is correct for present tense writing, and my use of the phrase “I think”, and whether or not it at least needs to be, “I think to myself”, to be grammatically correct. I am teaching myself to write so these are very simple examples in which the complete context of what could be more detailed writing, is not provided.

Today is my birthday. I am having a party in which many games will occur. My friends, Connor and Jason have come over. We are playing tag. I see a sign ahead. Connor shouts at me to stop running. He is so stupid. I think.

Question: is “have” correct in this situation regarding it being expressed in present tense? Extra question: in the first question, could I have put “have” in italics instead of quotations?

My second example:

Today is my birthday. I am having a party in which many games will occur. My friend Connor has come over. We are playing tag. I see a sign ahead. Connor shouts at me to stop running. He is so stupid. I think.

Would I need to say, “I think to myself”?

(These examples are very simple because I am just now beginning to be very conscious of the ways in which I write, and just trying to quickly and straightforwardly get the gist of what I would like to know.)

Also regarding the previous parentheses, would I need to write “and I am”?

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It reads a little off, tense-wise and also not quite the personality of a child. Are they slightly abnormal perhaps? They seem very measured, where they might be expected to be more chaotic?

I am having a party in which many games will occur. My friends, Connor and Jason have come over. We are playing tag.

"My birthday party is the best ever. We've barely even started the games and there's loads more to come! Connor and Jason and me are playing tag in the street..."

A quick effort to inject some more childish energy into it. Your writing style looks very correct and precise, which is great for many things, but in the first person POV of a child I think you could loosen up quite a lot, and get a stronger result.

He is so stupid. I think

Here the italics make it clear that your character is thinking this, so you can drop the 'I think' tag entirely. You should probably use a contraction for "He's so stupid", as thoughts are generally shown like dialogue.

Hope this helps.

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I assume you're not asking for a general critique of the text samples so I'll skip any nit-picking.

In English it's most common to write stories in past tense. "That was my birthday. I had a party where we played many games." Etc. But if for whatever reason you think present tense will be more effective for this story, okay. In that case, yes, "have" is correct. You are writing in present tense and "have" is present tense.

When referring to a word as a word, sometimes people use italics and sometimes people use quotes. Either is fine.

I think usually when writers include stream of consciousness in a story, they put it in quotes, not italics. 'Connor shouts at me to stop running. "He is so stupid", I think.'

It is not necessary to say, "I think to myself" rather than simply "I think". Unless this is a story about people with mental telepathy, there's no one else you can think to except yourself. Adding "to myself" is just redundant.

I disagree with Phil S. that you don't need "I think" because the italics make it clear that you are quoting your own thought. No, they don't. Italics can have many meanings. Most often, italics are used for emphasis. My first impression on reading "He is so stupid" in italics without the "I think" would be that it narration and you are putting it in italics for emphasis.

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is “have” correct in this situation regarding it being expressed in present tense? Extra question: in the first question, could I have put “have” in italics instead of quotations?

What you want to do is google search for present perfect tense and learn about that. It has multiple uses. When it comes to strict grammar rules, you're going to be much better served availing yourself of the abundant resources elsewhere for that; grammar is specifically listed as one of the off-topic things for this site.

He is so stupid. I think.

Would I need to say, “I think to myself”?

There are several ways of doing internal dialogue. One is to put it in italics, as you have done. When doing it that way you never need to say that you're thinking it. That's redundant. So just:

He is so stupid.

(These examples are very simple because I am just now beginning to be very conscious of the ways in which I write, and just trying to quickly and straightforwardly get the gist of what I would like to know.)

Also regarding the previous parentheses, would I need to write “and I am”?

I am guessing that you mean, should you say "...and I am just trying..." instead of "...and just trying...". No, that's not necessary, although it's valid grammar either way. The first way is fine and in fact I'd guess that most readers would actually find it more natural.

What's happening here is a linguistic feature of words being omitted "under ellipsis", meaning where words have been removed because they can be intuited by the addressee.

Now with all that being said...I would encourage you to actually direct your efforts elsewhere. If your goal is to become a better writer, I think you will be much better served focusing on other things rather than the exact grammatical details of your sentences. Go with what feels natural, with what feels like the way real people talk and that good books write.

When your brain is caught up in analyzing and nitpicking things grammatically, you're in your left brain as well as your judgment center, and you cannot effectively be engaging the creative parts of your consciousness. I'd encourage you to completely turn off your inner analyzer when writing your first draft and even your first round of editing, which should be focused on bigger developmental edits (because after all, if you change the big things first, they will change a lot of the smaller things anyways).

I hope that was helpful.

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