Re: Passive Voice? in Scientific Writing

Subject: Re: Passive Voice? in Scientific Writing
From: Iain Harrison <iharrison -at- SCT -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 09:52:05 GMT

Elaine Firestone writes:

... I deal with mostly scientists here at NASA who almost
always write in passive voice. As much as possible, I
change it ("it has been noted" gets changed to "it was
noted", etc.).

Although your change may be an improvement, you aren't changing
that from passive to active voice in this example. You're
changing the tense.

To make it active, you would have to change it to 'I noted' or
'Joe Soap noted'. Much easier to read, much more concise, and
more informative. Of course, if you don't know who did the
noting, it would have to be 'someone noted' which is less
revealing. Maybe you'd then have a good reason to ask the writer
who actually did the noting.

You have my sympathy. There are so many people in the scientific
community who have been brought up on a diet of impenetrable
verbiage that they equate obscurist writing with academic
rigour. At least it keeps us in business!

iharrison -at- sct -dot- co -dot- uk

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