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Language strategies for grading endorsement and distance

Strategy 5: Using passive constructions

Note: Before reading this section, you may like to go to Module 1, Unit 5: The passive to refresh your understanding of the formation and uses of passive constructions

Using active and passive when reporting evidence

When we write, we make a number of choices about verb forms. One of the choices we make is to use either the active or passive voice.

If we choose the active voice when reporting evidence, we commit ourselves to identifying the doer, sayer or thinker (i.e. the actor) of the action, statement, thoughts or beliefs.

This means that, when we report evidence, the source of the information or evidence is identifiable, and we are committed to naming and referencing that source. However, there are some good reasons for using the passive form to omit the actor from your writing.

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