Graduate students often think that the passive voice sounds more “academic” than active voice. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Voice has to do with who is “doing the action” in a sentence. When the subject is doing the action, the sentence is in the active voice; when the subject is acted upon, the sentence is in the passive voice. The active voice is more direct and dynamic than the passive because the “doer” comes at the beginning of the sentence and is not buried within the sentence.
Here are some examples of active and passive voice:
I, and not the tutor, parsed the complex biblical passage. (This sentence places the emphasis of you at the beginning of the sentence. Notice also that the sentence is shorter and more direct.)
The complex biblical passage was parsed by me, not by the tutor. (In this sentence, the passage becomes the important part of the sentence rather than the fact that you, and not the tutor, did the analyzing)
Occasionally, you might want to use passive voice for emphasis.
Example: “ I didn’t read the assignment because the book was checked out of the library.”
Avoid shifting between voices
Many students find Professor X’s class boring, but it is taken anyway.
Revised: Many students find Professor X’s class boring, but they take it anyway.