Re: Passive Voice? in Scientific Writing: Explanation

Subject: Re: Passive Voice? in Scientific Writing: Explanation
From: John Engler <spillman!jengler -at- UUNET -dot- UU -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 09:07:33 -0700

> "For data reduction, the desired quantity is the response of the band
> after the out-of-band has been removed."

Hey everybody,

Here's my shot at a rewrite (like others, I'm not sure what it means):

"After the out-of-band has been removed, the band responds with the
<quantity> you want."

A couple of notes:

I know some of you will object to my anthropomorphsizing the band. I
had an editor that objected to it for a long time, too. But I say "why
not?" It's helps improve the clarity, it allows me to write in an active
voice, an hey, it gives life to the otherwise lifeless machines we work
with all day long.

I intentionally excluded "for data reduction" because it doesn't
contribute to the idea of the sentence in my mind. I'm sure it's
necessary, but I would work it into the previous sentence or write it
into its own sentence--for two reasons. I try to write so that each
sentence has only one idea in it. The phrase "for data reduction" seems
like another idea, although related certainly. Second, I try to write
explanations as narratives--an oder of events, tasks, whatever. And by
using "after," you've implied a "before." But "for data reduction" doesn't
seem to come from the "before."

Also, I would prefer to use a word other than "quantity." I'd name what
it was, whether it's a megahertz frequency, a machine setting, or a pile
of peanuts.

Having said all this, I acknowledge my rewrite could be completely off
simply because I don't have the context.

Good luck Elaine.

John Engler
Spillman Data Systems, Inc.
Logan, UT

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