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It is recommended to use passive voice in writing scientific articles. Then I have this sentence:

In this section the algorithm for data extraction using a wrapper, created by the user through the GUI, is described.

There is a distance between the subject and verb which I don't like, I could say

In this section we describe the algorithm for data extraction using a wrapper which is created by the user through the GUI.

In this case the verb and subject are closer.

In general, is there any recommendation for the distance between verb and subject. Should I break the sentence down?

  • There's no rule I have come across that defines the 'distance' between the verb and the subject. But for readability, for sure, you need them as close as possible. In your first example, a person with volatile memory (like me!) may forget what that 'is' addresses to! – Maulik V Jun 23 '15 at 7:00
  • It's possibe to separate the subject and verb by so much material that there is a risk that the reader will lose track of the subject by the time he gets to the verb. I don't think that's the case for your first sentence, though. It is also true that people who routinely read scientific reports tend to develop a knack for reading these kinds of sentences. Of course, one can always overdo something, so I would definitely be on the watch for it. – user6951 Jun 23 '15 at 7:59
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There is no special power in the passive voice that makes it especially well suited to producing clear scientific or technical writing. Nor can the preference for abstract nouns ("data extraction" over "extracting data") be justified.

The passive version of a sentence can be cumbersome and the active version simple and concise:

In this section the algorithm for data extraction using a wrapper, created by the user through the GUI, is described.

In this section we describe the algorithm for extracting data by means of a wrapper which the user creates through the GUI.

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