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The passive voice

When to use the passive voice in academic writing

You use the passive voice:

  • to avoid using informal personal pronouns (I, we, you) 

It will be argued that… 

  • when the ‘doers’ of the action are not important or you don’t want to mention them 

The cottages were built in 1820. 

A fatal error was made.

  • to describe a process

The dry ingredients are mixed together.

A word of caution:

  • Overuse of the passive voice can make your writing ‘wordy’, vague, and more difficult to read.
  • When reporting on research especially, be sure to include some active voice.

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