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Writing manuscripts in English can often be a struggle for scientists who are not native English speakers. In a survey on academic publishing issues, covering over 7000 researchers, a whopping 76% of academics found writing a manuscript in English to be a challenge. According to an analysis of 100 manuscripts in 2016, the most common mistakes are grammatical errors (49%), unclear language (15%), and an improper choice of words (10%). According to another analysis, language editing before submitting a manuscript can raise its chances of acceptances by up to 24%.
Elsevier Author Services offer editing and translation packages that transform manuscripts into quality publications without error. In the editing service, professional editors make sure the manuscript applies important grammar principles, such as the active and passive voice, correctly. These are fundamental to sentence structure and formation and play a great role in determining the clarity and flow of a written piece.
But what are voices and when do you use them in an academic manuscript?
A sentence written in the active voice emphasizes the doer, or subject, of an action, who in turn affects an object.
Take for example: Scientists have finally achieved efficient quantum-encrypted message transmission.
Here, the subject of the sentence (Scientists) performed an action (achieved) that impacted an object (message transmission).
A sentence written in the passive voice focuses on the object or action being performed by the subject. The subject is often implied and needn’t be mentioned.
The previous example sentence in the passive voice will read: Efficient quantum-encrypted message transmission has finally been achieved (by scientists).
Notice that the object (message transmission) is mentioned first, followed by the action (has been achieved), and then the subject (Scientists), which is optional because it is understood.
When should I use the active voice and when the passive?
Sentences in the active voice are generally clearer and more concise than those in the passive voice, which are typically longer and wordier. But since the latter is more impersonal than the former, academic journals have traditionally favored it. In recent times, however, this is changing. Clarity and simplicity are becoming the focus of journal editors and reviewers, and they’re increasingly encouraging manuscript writing in the active voice.
This does not mean that the passive voice must be done away with entirely. Each voice plays its own role in making a manuscript the best that it can be. For instance, the active voice is good for the introduction, results, and discussion sections of the manuscript where you are laying out complex concepts. However, in the methods section, the passive voice works better because the steps you took to carry out your research matter more than who conducted them.
The bottom line is to get your message across to the reader most clearly and accurately no matter the voice.
To help you easily apply the active and passive voice and other grammar principles correctly, Elsevier Author Services has now launched a Mini Program on WeChat. When you submit your details to get a quote, you will be sent a discount voucher along with the email. Take advantage of Elsevier’s top-notch editing and translation assistance to get your manuscript to reach the highest standards. After all, as several surveys tell us, good communication is key to enabling your research to make the greatest possible impact.