English verbs have two voices: In active voice, the person acting is clear: The sentence is still in passive voice if the actor is specified later in the sentence: Passive voice makes the writing unclear by keeping the identity of the actor secret.
Werner Heisenberg formulated the uncertainty principle in The uncertainty principle was formulated by Werner Heisenberg in In an active sentence, the person or thing responsible for the action in the sentence comes first. In a passive sentence, we often omit the actor completely: The uncertainty principle was formulated in When do I use passive voice?
In some sentences, passive voice can be perfectly acceptable.
You might use it in the following cases: The actor is unknown: An experimental solar power plant will be built in the Australian desert. Rules are made to be broken.
For example, it may be your main topic: Insulin was first discovered in by researchers at the University of Toronto. It is still the only treatment available for diabetes. You are writing in a scientific genre that traditionally relies on passive voice.
Passive voice is often preferred in lab reports and scientific research papers, most notably in the Materials and Methods section: The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in water.
This solution was then titrated with hydrochloric acid.
In these sentences you can count on your reader to know that you are the one who did the dissolving and the titrating. The passive voice places the emphasis on your experiment rather than on you. Over the past several years, there has been a movement within many science disciplines away from passive voice.
To learn more about the use of passive voice in the sciences, visit our handout on writing in the sciences. When should I avoid passive voice? Passive sentences can get you into trouble in academic writing because they can be vague about who is responsible for the action:The active voice is stronger than the passive, and it therefore produces more powerful sentences.
If the subject of the sentence is the person or thing doing the acting, then the verb is in active voice. Dear Anonymous, Whether you write business documents, school essays, or personal emails, active voice is usually preferred over passive voice (note that part of this sentence was written in passive voice, which works for this example).
The active voice is generally preferred in business writing. Because the active voice clearly identifies who is performing the action of a sentence, it is preferred in business writing. You will learn more about using active-voice verbs in future chapters of your text%(27). performs the action; in the passive voice, the subject receives the action.
In academic writing, it is generally preferred to choose an active verb and pair it with a subject that names the person or. For vigorous, clear writing, opt for the active voice unless you have good reasons for choosing the passive voice.
Choose the passive voice when the performer is unknown or when you want to focus on the action or the recipient of the action.
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