John Dixon, independent medical writer and trainer in scientific writing skills, provides a useful tip for medical writers who work in MedComms.

John’s Linkedin page is at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johndixonlmm/

John’s web page is at https://librasciencecomms.co.uk

Note these “bites” are recorded online using the zoom.us platform and hence quality may be affected by variability in internet connectivity and quality of webcams. The tips, however, are always first class!

Recorded 22 November 2018. Produced by NetworkPharma.tv

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Transcript

Hi, I’m John Dixon, a trainer in scientific writing, and here’s a bite that I hope may help you with your writing.

Prefer the active voice [NEXT SLIDE]

When writing papers, scientists often prefer using the passive rather than the active voice. That’s the way many of us learned to write science. But greater use of the active voice is a simple way to make your writing clearer.

Using the active voice, the person or thing performing an action usually comes before the verb at the beginning of the sentence. The object comes after the verb towards the end of the sentence. This is reversed using the passive voice.

For example, take a sentence using the active voice… Doctors should recommend a daily walk to prevent osteoporosis.

Using the passive voice, this sentence becomes… A daily walk to prevent osteoporosis should be recommended by doctors. [NEXT SLIDE]

Notice that the passive voice uses more words to convey the same idea… 11 words using the passive and 9 words using the active voice. [NEXT SLIDE]

The passive voice also sounds duller than the active voice.

Using the active voice supports the concept that the most important element of an idea should go near the beginning of the sentence.
This usually makes things clearer to read.

In its section on how to write a paper, nature.com states: “Nature journals prefer authors to write in the active voice.”

So… perhaps we scientific writers should take the good advice of a high-quality science publisher!

I hope that’s helpful. For more bites to help your writing, visit networkpharma.tv.

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[For the avoidance of doubt: this video is intended to be freely accessible to all. Please feel free to share and use however you like. Cheers Peter Llewellyn, Director NetworkPharma Ltd and Founder of the MedComms Networking Community activity at http://www.medcommsnetworking.com]