Making Scientific Writing More Robust: The Power of Active Voice

May 22, 2023

Scientists have long adopted a particular writing style that emphasizes objectivity and precision. As a result, using passive voice has become the norm in peer-reviewed scientific articles and grant applications. But there is a growing recognition that solid writing in the active voice can make scientific writing more straightforward and engaging to readers – both inside and outside the academic community. In this blog post, I’ll explore the benefits of using active voice in scientific writing and provide examples demonstrating its effectiveness.

One of the primary advantages of active voice is that it makes the subject of a sentence more prominent. Conversely, passive voice de-emphasizes (or omits) the subject, creating a less engaging writing style. Consider this sentence:

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

While grammatically correct, this sentence lacks the clarity and impact achievable through active voice. By simply switching to active voice, we can transform the sentence into this:

“Piperine enhanced quercetin bioavailability.”

This revised sentence makes the relationship between piperine and quercetin more explicit and interesting.

In addition to improving clarity, active voice can help streamline scientific writing by eliminating unnecessary wordiness. Authors often fall into the trap of using long, convoluted sentences that hinder understanding. Take a look at this sentence:

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

This lengthy, wordy sentence contains five prepositional phrases that we can eliminate without sacrificing meaning. By employing active voice and concise language, we can rephrase the sentence as follows:

“Flavonoid administration reduced study participants’ inflammatory biomarkers.”

This revised sentence conveys the same information in a much more concise and direct manner.

But an active voice also has the potential to make scientific writing more compelling for readers. Active voice brings the research process to life, allowing readers to better connect with the experiments and outcomes described in an article. By highlighting the actors (scientists) and actions responsible for the observed results, the active voice adds a sense of dynamism and narrative flow to the writing. It enables readers to visualize the experiments, understand the cause-and-effect relationships, and appreciate the significance of the findings. Active voice humanizes science. As a result, scientific writing becomes more relatable and captivating, inviting readers to delve deeper into the research.

While writing peer-reviewed scientific articles in passive voice has become the standard, active voice brings clarity, conciseness, and relatability to scientific writing. If you struggle with writing in the active voice, consider engaging the services of a professional science writer like TLJ Communications. 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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