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Writing and Study Skills Clinic Active versus passive voice.

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Presentation on theme: "Writing and Study Skills Clinic Active versus passive voice."— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing and Study Skills Clinic Active versus passive voice

2 The Plan Passive Versus Active Voice What it looks like What it means Uses in complex, complicated and/or cohesive texts

3 Passive versus Active Be + past participle shows that the SUBJECT did not complete the action. The research has been conducted in 30 countries. The program is being run on 10 consecutive intervals at this time. Food is served daily to the unfortunate who frequent the lower west side. The experiment was conducted to account for the linguistic set backs experienced by the control group.

4 Four (standard) Uses: Passive Personified When the doer (or catalyst) is unknown: The growth was attributed to extra radiation, a hypothesis that proved to be unfounded. When the doer is less important than the done to: My gold fish was eaten! I loved that fish. Thats why Im going to have it buried at sea off the Catalina Island coast. The cat ate my gold fish! I loved that fish….Stupid cat. When blame or recrimination would be the tone: Mistakes were made. When readability and cohesion based on the principle of old info/new info are affected….

5 Passive versus Active: when should you use it? Style Based Formal versus informal First personal versus third person We experimented on 10 monkeys. Ten monkeys were used in the course of the experiment. Ten monkeys were experimented on.

6 Meaning Based Focus of the sentence/idea/paragraph/paper Main elements and clauses We dont know who did it, or what caused it. We dont want to assign blame. Someone stole all of our monkeys! Our monkeys have been stolen! Mildred broke our computer, so our experiment is ruined. The computer has been broken, rendering our experiment null.

7 Old Information/New Information Flow Cohesion Strengthening old information/new information connections Childhood diseases infiltrate the immune system. The immune system is then compromised, and drastic steps might have to be taken in order to maintain the childs health.

8 Middle Voice Confusion This voice often carries a sense of suspense, and is rarely used in academic writing without an artistic, pathos, or literary intent: The chair fell. The experiment failed.

9 Correcting for Both Meaning & Form The active is to be preferred, as well as active verbs: It is important to recognize the limitations. The experiment is limited by a small population. The population limits the experiments generalizability. A direct object is necessary to create a passive. The fish ate the cat. The cat was eaten by the fish. The dog fell down the hole. The hole was fallen down the dog….

10 Passive as process: Swales & Feak When should you use the by phrase *(agent of the action) Cohesion Added info toward tone, attitude, or depth to a description: The penicillin was created by the least efficient of labs in the Bay area. The doer adds legitimacy or clarification, especially if the doer is exceptional to the situation: The murder was committed by a Bozo-the-Clown look alike.

11 Focus of the paragraph: Rearranging active and passive The independent clause encodes the main idea of the paragraph. Keeping the topic in the subject position using the passive is also an effective way to reinforce the purpose of your paragraph: Though somewhat delusional, dragon hunters should be applauded. While their services are rarely required, dragon hunters provide a necessary service to the community in the form of keeping harmless fantasy nuts occupied. Truly, dragon hunting can be considered a boon to the smooth functioning of modern society.

12 Need more support? Call to make an appointment: 657-278-2738 Check out the complete list of our workshops: On Facebook: Cal State Fullerton Graduate Students Grad Studies Website: ULC Website:

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