How Do Active and Passive Sentences Affect Academic Writing?



Effective communication is critical to ensure that your research has the most excellent potential effect. In this context, the use of active or passive voice is essential in sentence construction and dramatically affects the clarity and flow of written work. Clarity should be the core principle when deciding between active and passive voice.

Active voice

The doer, or subject of action, who then influences an object, is highlighted in a sentence written in the active voice.
For example, I conducted a population survey.
Here, the verb’s subject (I) engaged in an activity (conducted) that had an impact on the object (population survey).

Passive voice

The object or action that the subject carries out is the main focus of a sentence written in the passive voice. There is usually no need to address the subject explicitly, but passive voice can make the text verbose and tough to comprehend when used in lengthy sentences.
The previous example in passive voice would be: A population survey was conducted (by me).
Here, before mentioning the subject (I, here me), the object (population survey) and action (conducted) is mentioned first.

Proper Usage of Active and Passive Voice

Clarity: Compared to passive sentences, which are generally longer and more wordy, active sentences are more precise and concise. As passive voice is more impersonal, traditionally academic journals have preferred it. Authors were strictly advised against using the active voice in scholarly papers, particularly the use of first-person pronouns like “I,” “we,” “my,” and “our.” But now, simplicity and clarity are the main concerns for journal editors and reviewers, and the practice of using the active voice in writing is gaining more and more support.

Introduction, Results, Discussion: Making a manuscript as good as possible requires the contribution of each voice. For the introduction, results, and discussion sections of the manuscript, where you outline intricate concepts, the active voice works well. Active voice enhances the readability of text.

Methods: The passive voice is more suitable for the methods section because the actions taken to conduct research are more important than who conducted them. Identifying the active researcher when describing experiments, data collections, and interviews is not necessary. Personal subjects are commonly actively discouraged in style guides for academic writers.

Intentional Usage: Usually, the active voice is preferred in scholarly writing today. However, in some circumstances using the passive voice is acceptable. Passive voice is a better choice if the reader knows who the subject is or if the background needs to be explained. Scholarly writing encourages strategical usage of the passive voice. However, contextual integration of both voices is crucial.

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