Use of Passive and Active Voice - University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Use of Passive and Active Voice
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
1
Steps in this tutorial
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1) State the goals of this tutorial
2) What are active and passive voice
3) Examples of active and passive voice
4) How they differ
5) How we use them in psychology writing
6) How to change passive to active voice
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
2
Goal
• To explain what active and passive voice are in
writing
• To explain why active voice is usually the
better choice for science writing
• To help you learn how to write with active
voice instead of passive voice
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
3
Objectives
• By the end of this tutorial you should be able
to
– Articulate what passive and active voice are
– Recognize them in writing
– Understand how we use them in psychology
writing
– Change passive voice phrasing to active voice in
your own writing
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
4
What are Active and Passive voice?
• Active and passive voice refers to whether the
subject or the object in the sentence performs
the action of the verb
• In active voice the subject performs the action
of the verb
• In passive voice the object performs the
action of the verb
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
5
Active Voice
• The subject performs the action of the verb
• Example:
The student presented the talk.
The subject
The action of the verb
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
6
Active Voice
• The subject performs the action of the verb
• Example:
The article summarized the research
The subject
The action of the verb
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
7
Passive Voice
• The object performs the action of the verb
The talk was presented by the student
The action of the verb
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
The object
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Passive Voice
• The object performs the action of the verb
• Example:
The research was summarized by the article
The action of the verb
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
The object
9
How do Active and Passive voice
Differ?
• The examples just shown are the same in
terms of what actually happens
• In both cases the student did the presenting
• In both cases the article did the summarizing
• So how are they different?
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
10
How do Active and Passive Voice
Differ?
• Active voice is direct
– The subject directly acts on the object
– The tone is clear and immediate
– As if you throw a ball directly at a target
– The target gets all the force of the ball
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
11
Active Voice
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
12
How do Active and Passive voice
differ?
• Passive voice is indirect
– The subject is acted ON by the object
– The tone is roundabout
– As if you bounce a ball off a wall to hit a target
– The wall and the target both get some of the force
of the ball
– So the impact is not as strong or clear
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
13
Passive Voice
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
14
Using Active and Passive Voice in
Psychology Writing
• APA recommends the use of active rather than
passive voice
• Good writing usually uses both active and passive
voice
• Active voice is very direct, so if you use it all the
time, the reader may feel a bit like she is being
hollered at
• Passive voice is indirect, so if you use it all the
time the reader will have a hard time following
your argument
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
15
Using Active and Passive Voice in
Psychology Writing
• Psychology writing is objective
• Writing should be clear
• We don’t want to make the reader work too
hard
• If you aren’t certain which voice to use, you
are probably better off choosing active voice,
rather than passive voice.
• But it is ideal if you can use some of each
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
16
Changing Passive to Active VoiceExample
• Here is a bad example of using passive voice in
a psychology paper
Depression has been researched by scientists for
decades.
• There is no reason to use passive voice, it
makes the sentence harder to follow. A
preferred version uses active voice:
Scientists have researched depression for
decades.
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
17
Changing Passive to Active VoiceExample 2
• Here is a 2nd bad example of using passive
voice in a psychology paper
Surveys were handed out to participants by
research assistants.
• This sentence makes the research process
sound rather mysterious. A preferred version
uses active voice:
Research assistants handed surveys out to the
participants.
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
18
Summary
• This tutorial presented and explained the
differences between active and passive voice
in writing
• It explained why active voice is generally
preferred
– And noted that APA recommends the use of active
voice
• It gave examples of how to change typical
sentences from passive to active voice
Created by Alice Frye, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, University of Massachusetts,
Lowell
19

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