Welcome

Thanks for checking this blog. Need more writing tips? Try Vince's bookmarks.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What are the five reasons to use passive voice?

USE ACTIVE VOICE
As listed below, there are only 5 reasons one should EVER use passive voice. If you don't need to use passive voice for one of those 5 reason, then you must write active sentences. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. Read on, brave writer!





What is active voice?
·       The subject does the action.


Example of active voice

Part of speech
Subject
Verb
Object

Sentence
The group
will present
the report
next week.


How can you tell if a sentence is active?
·       Ask yourself, "Who/What does the action?" If the answer is clear, the sentence is active.
o   Example: The students tested the samples.
o   Example: The samples failed.

Why use active voice?
·       Where possible, use the active voice. It is direct, brief, and easy to understand.





What is passive voice?
·       The passive voice places the emphasis on the action, rather than the actor.  


Example of passive voice

Part of speech
Subject
Verb
Object

Sentence
The report
will be presented
by the group
next week.


How can you tell if a sentence is passive?
·       The direct object is placed before the verb, which is given in the passive form. The subject, or actor, is usually not mentioned.
o   Example: The samples were tested.

Why use passive voice?
·       Passive voice is used frequently in technical (and academic) writing, where the focus is usually on what was done rather than who did it. It is conventionally used to report experimental procedure and to avoid constant repetition of I or we throughout the report, paper or thesis.
·       Use passive voice for a specific purpose, not simply out of habit.
·       In order to use passive voice correctly, it is necessary to understand, and be able to recognize, the difference between passive and active voice.




Exercise

· Find and circle all examples of passive voice in your paper.
· Do they fit one of the five reasons bel
ow?

 

Five reasons for using the passive voice

 

1. The 'actor' is not known.
·       Oil was discovered off the coast of Australia.
·       The number of Internet users was estimated to be over one million.

2. The 'actor' is not important.
·       The report has been published.
·       The results will be presented at the conference.

3. It is considered desirable to conceal the identity of the 'actor'.
·       The results are invalid, as the correct testing procedure was not followed.          
·       Research funding will be cut next year.

4. An impersonal tone is needed for academic writing.
·       In this report, the stress fields in a C-shape plate will be analyzed.
An impersonal tone is also used for describing processes.
·       First, the raw materials are loaded into a container ...

5. A tactful tone is needed to smooth over an error or difficulty.
Compare these two examples.
·       Example of passive voice: The samples were not checked at the second stage . . .
·       Example of active voice: We forgot to check the samples . . .


Homework: Find all passive voice sentences that do not fit one of the five reasons. Then, change them into active voice. 

WHAT IS PASSIVE VOICE?

Passive voice is used frequently in technical writing, where the focus is usually on what was done rather than who did it. It is conventionally used to report experimental procedure and to avoid constant repetition of I or we throughout the report, paper or thesis.

In order to use passive voice correctly, it is necessary to fully understand, and be able to recognize, the difference between passive and active voice.





Active and passive voice

  • The active voice names an 'actor' which/who is the subject of the verb; the actor does the verb.
Who/What does the verb? 
  • If the answer is clear, the sentence is active. 
Note that often, there is a direct object (DO) 'receiving' the action.
 
Part of speech
Subject
Verb

Sentence
The students
tested
the samples.

The samples
failed.



Who/What is the verb done to? This is the direct object.

Part of speech
Subject
Verb
Direct Object
Sentence
The students
tested
the samples.


Where possible, use the active voice. It is direct, brief, and easy to understand.
The passive voice places the emphasis on the action rather than the actor. The direct object is placed before the verb, which is given in the passive form. The subject, or actor, is usually not mentioned.


Example: The samples were tested.

Formation of the passive

The passive can use any tense of the verb to be + a past participle

Subject
Any tense of the verb to be +
A past participle
The load/s
is/are
was/were
calculated.
The report/s
has been
have been
presented.

The sample/s
will be
can be
tested.


The result/s
is/are being
(should) have been
(could) have been

compared







Changing passive to active

To spot passive sentences, look for a form of the verb to be in your sentence, with the actor either missing or introduced after the verb using the word "by":
  • Genetic information is encoded by DNA.
  • The possibility of cold fusion has been examined for many years.

Try turning each passive sentence you find into an active one. Start your new sentence with the actor. Sometimes you may find that need to do some extra research or thinking to figure out who the actor should be! You will likely find that your new sentence is stronger, shorter, and more precise:

  • DNA encodes genetic information.
  • Physicists have examined the possibility of cold fusion for many years.

(found at http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/style-and-editing/passive-voice; accessed 2012/04)

Changing active to passive

Example of active voice

Part of speech
Subject
Verb
Object

Sentence
The group
will present
the report
next week.


STEP 1: move the object to the subject position
  • The report ...

STEP 2: change the verb to the passive, making sure that BE takes the same tense as the verb in the active sentence
  • The report will be presented ...

STEP 3: drop the subject
  • Example of passive voice without the subject: The report will be presented next week.

or move it to a position after the verb
  • Example of passive voice with the subject: The report will be presented by the group next week.





Verbs that can't be used in the passive


Most verbs can be changed from the active to the passive.

Active voice: We tested the samples. > Passive voice: The samples were tested.

If the verb can be followed by a direct object (a direct object answers the question who or what after the verb) it can be made passive.

Part of speech

Verb
Direct object
Sentence

These difficulties
may delay
the completion of the project.


But the verb occur, for example, cannot take a direct object.

Part of speech

Verb
Indirect object
Sentence

A solution

occurred

to him.

This cannot be transformed to the passive since there is no direct object to become the subject.

Some verbs that can be used only in the active are: occur, rise, happen, arise, fall, exist, consist (of), depend (on),  result (from).

Active and passive verbs

Active (correct)
Passive (incorrect)
Problems may
occur
happen
arise
exist
Problems may be
occurred
happened
arisen
existed
They
consist of
depend on
They are

consist of
depend on
Note: 'They are dependent on . . .' is correct since 'dependent' is an adjective.

A special case:

Part of speech
Subject
Verb
Object
Sentence
They
lack
resources.

Lack can take a direct object but cannot be transformed to the passive: Resources are lacked (incorrect). However, you could write: Resources are lacking.


Concern and involve

Concerned about means 'worried about'.  Concerned with means 'involved in'. The passive voice can be used with both meanings. Whether or not they can be used in the passive depends on the meaning.

To involve has three meanings:
  1. To participate, to take part
  2. To include
  3. To require

Only the first meaning, to participate, to take part can be used in the passive form.
  • This week, students are involved in lab work.

The active voice must be used with the second meaning, to include.
  • Example: He often involves his students in his research.

The active voice must also be used with the third meaning, to require.
  • Example: The project involves buying new software.



- Updated by Vince on Sat 20 Aug 2016





Monday, May 1, 2017

This... what?


THIS... WHAT?

To quote Professor John Cochrane at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, you should clothe the naked “this.”

“This” should always have something following it. “This example shows that....” is fine. More generally, this rule helps you to avoid an unclear antecedent to the “this.” Often there are three or more things in recent memory that “this” could point to.

In grammar lexicon, the above issue is often marked as "unclear antecedent."
Sometimes an antecedent is unclear not because there are multiple nouns that a pronoun may refer to, but because the noun that the pronoun refers to has not been stated. This error is especially common when writers use first-person plural pronouns—we, us, our, and ours—to imply unity between the writer and the readers.

Identifying and Addressing Unclear Pronouns and Antecedents

https://writingcommons.org/.../1237-identifying-and-addressing-unclear-pronouns-antec...