Why Argue About Activepassive Voice

Passive versus active voice in scientific writing has been a controversial issue for many years. Without any doubt, the tradition of using the passive voice in scientific reporting is firmly engraved in scientists' brains. Many scientific communicators believe that it is inappropriate, even impolite, to use the personal pronouns such as "I" or "we." They would prefer to say, "it was studied" rather than "I studied" or "we studied." Note here that the passive sentence does not tell us who studied the subject in question. In his book published in 1971, John Swales states that," ... passive sentences are clearer. The first reason for this is that passive sentences do not mention people. For a scientist, many references to people are unnecessary and confusing."

Nowadays, most modern grammarians, linguists, and editors agree that the exclusive use of the passive voice is redundant. In this time and age where brevity and conciseness of manuscripts are critical factors, the active voice helps to keep messages lean and clear. Moreover, our time constraints with both the writing and reading of scientific information call for an unambiguous language involving active verbs and personal pronouns wherever possible.

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