Twelve Tips for Terrific Texts: Tip #7 – Active voice (Writing stage)

Time for the seventh tip in my scicomm series: “active voice.”

In my last tip, I talked about tweaking MS Word settings so that the spelling and grammar check will catch more specific writing issues. One of the things you can get MS Word to check for is active voice.

In science, it’s really common to write in passive voice – “the experiment was completed” – and sometimes, that’s acceptable. For example, in a methods section, it may be appropriate to use passive voice and avoid specifying “who did it” for every action completed (in that case, the “who” is far less important than the “what”).

The prevalence of active voice in science writing is increasing though, and writing that uses active voice is often shorter, more interesting, and stronger sounding than writing that uses passive voice. Practice using active voice to really make your writing pop, and draw in readers of all backgrounds!

Stay tuned for the next 5 tips!

Communicating your science: writing: active voice. “I jumped out of a plane” is shorter and more interesting than “A plane was jumped out of by me.”

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