The previous question attracted me to ask this question.

For example in an academic thesis of a student:

Second, by using the [...] and [...], an attempt was made to find an appropriate model.

In compare with:

Second, by using the [...] and [...], we/they/[...] tried to find an appropriate model.

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    I think this question would be more appropriate at Writers.SE.
    – WendiKidd
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 21:51
  • What @WendiKidd said. I don't think people wishing to learn contemporary English usage stand to gain much from this. Unless you have a reasonably high competence already, deliberately trying to use passive voice in an attempt to sound more "professional" would actually be more likely to lead to much less natural phrasing in many cases. It's pretty much covered here on ELU, though. Commented May 15, 2013 at 22:00
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    If this is sent to Writers, we'd either close it or ask for more context; right now, it's a grammar question, which is off-topic on Writers. However, if the question is framed with the surrounding text, it's an answerable Writers question about the effect of a change in sentence structure. If you want to keep this as strictly a grammar question, you could ask it on English Language and Usage. Commented May 15, 2013 at 22:20
  • 1
    Another way to make it on-topic at Writers is to ask about academic style -- what do the various style guides say about this, is one more common in journals and other publications, etc. Commented May 16, 2013 at 1:43

1 Answer 1


In the context which you supply, it does indeed look more "formal"; whether that is also more "professional" will depend upon your profession.

By and large, the sciences (hard and soft) and the disciplines which emulate them tend to prefer any literary device which conceals the participation of the writer. The humanities at one time emulated this impersonality but are now mostly forsaking it. Some writers and editors, indeed, actually deprecate any use of the passive; but I think this is largely a reaction to overuse.

There is an excellent discussion of the matter at Duke entitled "Passive Voice in Scientific Writing"; despite its narrow focus its advice seems to me of value to any writer.

My own advice is that you examine the practice of writers whose works you admire and emulate that.

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