Making Scientific Writing More Robust: The Power of Active Voice

May 22, 2023

If you’ve ever read a peer-reviewed journal article, you’ve probably noticed that scientists often use a writing style that emphasizes objectivity and precision – better known as passive voice. Passive voice de-emphasizes the subject, making the writing less engaging (read: boring).

However, many journal editors are waking up to the power of using active voice. That’s because an active voice can make scientific writing more engaging and straightforward for readers – inside and outside the academic community. Let’s look at a few passive-voice sentences and identify ways to fix this pervasive problem. 

Here’s a classic example of a sentence using passive voice:

“Quercetin bioavailability was shown to be enhanced by piperine.”

Yes, the sentence is grammatically correct, but it lacks the oomph and clarity that active voice can bring. Let’s revise it so that the subject takes center stage.

“Piperine enhanced quercetin bioavailability.”

This shorter, peppier sentence clarifies the relationship between piperine and quercetin. 

Another bonus of using active voice is that it can eliminate unnecessary wordiness, streamlining your work. Take a look at this long, convoluted sentence:

“Flavonoid administration resulted in a decrease in biomarkers of inflammation among the participants who were enrolled in the study.”

Ugh. The sentence contains five prepositional phrases that we can eliminate without sacrificing meaning. Let’s switch to active voice and tighten up the phrasing.

“Flavonoid administration reduced study participants’ inflammatory biomarkers.”

Wow. This shorter, less wordy sentence conveys the same information in a much more concise and direct (read: not boring) way.

But what I love about active voice is that it can make scientific writing more compelling for readers. Active voice brings the research process to life, allowing readers to visualize the experiments, understand the cause-and-effect relationships, and appreciate the findings’ significance. Active voice humanizes science. 

Although writing peer-reviewed scientific articles in passive voice has become the standard, active voice brings clarity, conciseness, and relatability to scientific writing. If you need help writing in the active voice, consider engaging the services of a professional science writer like me. I can help you maximize the accuracy and effectiveness of your publications and improve your scientific, publishing, and funding success – while maintaining your voice and passion. Let me do the writing for you!



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