Active or Passive—Which Voice Is Best?

In academic writing, students are often encouraged to use an ‘objective’ voice; to focus on methodologies, arguments, evidence and results in a way that keeps the author/researcher in the background. Passive sentence structures, which place emphasis on what is being done to the sentence’s subject, are especially common in science disciplines where researchers emphasise results over personal opinions. Here is an example of a passive construction: The ball was thrown into the air by one child and caught by another. In this sentence, the direct subject (or noun) is the ‘ball’, and it is being thrown and caught (verbs) by the children (indirect subjects). Here is the same sentence rewritten as an active construction: One child threw the ball, another caught it. In this sentence, …

Read more »