Active vs. Passive Voice: A Change in the Science Tides

When writing, you can use either active or passive voice. Active voice focuses on the performer of an action, while passive voice focuses on the receiver of an action.

For example:

Active Voice: We analyzed the data shown in figure 2.

Passive Voice: The data in figure 2 was analyzed.

Active voice tends to be more direct and clear, while the passive voice tends to be wordy and a little awkward. Traditionally, scientific documents have been written in passive voice as it was considered objective and impersonal. However, in today's science culture, scientists are using active voice more and more. Scientific journals and writing guides/manuals are also following suit, recommending active voice be used as much as possible to maximize clarity and directness.

Passive voice should be saved for those instances where you want to focus on the action or the receiver of the action.

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