Passive Voice

Contemporary writing in science has become more and more direct and, as it has, the use of passive voice has been fast disappearing. Check your spreadsheets, or go back to the photocopied articles, to discover if you find verbs in passive voice. Change any you find to active voice, for examples see Table 2. The journals esteem active voice and direct statements.

You will want to check your final draft for sentences which begin:

Also check for all sentences that start with the word 'It' when 'It' is used without a referent as a generality:

Passive structures are easy, familiar structures to use, and they will probably aid your ability to compose freely, so use them in your early drafts. However change them when you edit so that the content of each sentence is more quickly available to the reader. Moving directly to what you have to say creates a stronger paper and one more likely to be published. [For examples of how to rewrite 'It' sentences see Table 3.1]

Table 3.1 Examples of Indirect or Unnecessary Language

from Unpublished Papers

Indirect language

Direct, clear language

It will be the end of the year

We expect results by the

before we can expect results

end of the year.

to be ready.

It was discovered in our

We discovered sulfur

laboratories that sulfur

dichloride reacts with ...

dichloride reacts with . . .

It is vital to recognize the

Recognizing variance in the

importance of the variance

length of multiple bonds

among lengths of multiple bonds.

is vital.

It is very important to realize that

The results are important

the aforementioned

because . . .

results are ...

If my group had been able

We have not prepared the

to, we would have prepared

compound because . . .

the compound but . . .

There have been recent

Recent developments in

developments in NMR

NMR allow . . .

which allow ...

There are three molecular orbitals,

The three molecular orbitals

namely, 1)... 2) ..., 3)...

are: 1)..., 2). . . , 3). . .

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