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Gary Bortolotti, Biology Faculty

Active Voice

Can the active voice be used in scientific writing?

The style of writing, from the point of view of voice, is actually, in the scientific literature, a style preference for the editor or for the journal. But more and more, they are encouraging the active voice. And I actually prefer this: to say, "I went out and did this," rather than, "this was done." By whom? You know, it just sort of (it happened!), yeah, "it happened." No, and I think in many ways, in the sciences, it is a very intensely personal ... experience to do original research or it is in any scholarly activity. So, I think that ... ... the active voice is quite appropriate. It's not sometimes clear whose ideas you're actually talking about. So, if the passive voice is used, and you're saying, you know, that "this idea is out there and people have been thinking about it and whatnot," it's sometimes not clear if you're really saying... you're just synthesizing this from the literature, or rather someone has been talking about this all along and, you know. So, I actually prefer the active voice.