Passive voice VS Active Voice
By Melody TANG
often come across a problem when they are writing scientific articles. The problem is the choice between passive voice and active voice. As I know, a lot of writers prefer active voice than passive voice. In fact, active voice is not better than passive voice in every situation. We should have some knowledge about using the suitable voice.
What are Active Voice and Passive Voice?
Voice in the sentence refers to the relationship between subject, object and transitive verb which express movement. When the subject in sentence is performer of movement expressed by transitive verbs, the verb’s form is active voice. When the subject in sentence is undertaker of movement expressed by transitive verbs, the verb’s form is passive voice.
There is a very easy and obvious clue of passive voice. The obvious clue is, in passive sentence, the subject is always not performing movements. Many people consider that if the sentence includes the form of verb “to be”, the sentence can be determined as passive voice. This idea is wrong and unreliable.
Is active voice always better than passive voice?
In many writers’ view, passive is worse than active voice. Because most of them think it is more difficult to use passive voice to express their opinions. Actually, in some area, using passive is fantastic. If the performer of predicate verb is unclear or there is no need to point out it, using passive voice. Another advantage of passive voice is it can help you make a riddle atmosphere of article. But just like two edges of sword, passive voice is not helpful when you want to express something clearly and briefly.
Considering technical paper should be written as fining as possible, sometimes active voice is indeed better than passive voice. Because more predicate word is used when constructing passive voice, sometimes it will make the sentence a big head and a small tail.
In conclusion, if the emphasized key point of the sentence is performer of predicate verb, using active voice; on the other hand, if the emphasized key point of sentence is undertaker of predicate verb using passive voice is more suitable.
Why passive voice is especially suitable for science and technical writing?
In science writing, we need to write form object angle to explain science to others. Passive voice is helpful in constructing objective atmosphere of articles. As a result, in some condition of science writing passive voice is undoubted much better than active voice.