Monday, September 02, 2013

No, not really. Not at all, actually

This just in from a set of guidelines for grad student research submissions:

*      Research manuscripts should predominantly use the passive voice rather than active voice. 

Well, a couple of things. One, if the passive voice is so dern good, why wasn't it used by you in the first place? Two, and this can be applied by undergraduates as well as doctoral students as a new semester looms like a giant looming thing: Some people will tell you that you should predominantly use the passive voice. Other people will tell you that the active voice should predominantly be used. Those people are bad people, the lot of them.

Whatever else you are doing in school, you are -- we kinda hope -- trying to learn to write good. That means you'll learn enough mechanics to tell active clauses from passive clauses at a high level of confidence. Having done that, you may confidently look at people who tell you that journalists always use the active voice, or researchers always use the passive voice, and deliver them a swift kick in the fusebox. That's what Elmore would do.

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Anonymous Mark P said...

I always thought that research papers, at least those in the physical sciences, sounded better in the passive. Some people criticized me for using it in my dissertation, but they were just following some rule they thought they remembered (physical scientists are notoriously ill-educated in the liberal arts). I did what my advisor said, but I didn't agree with it. And I still don't. On the other hand, even though it sounds odd to me, I wouldn't criticize someone for writing a dissertation in the active voice. I mean, unless a journal specifies one or the other, who cares?

5:47 PM, September 03, 2013  

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