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Passive voice and Redundancy ─ Two most fatal errors in English Academic Writing

出自香港新聞網 - 樹仁新傳系學生實習習作

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【29th October, 2013 Leung Nga Wing】Academic English writing professional Dr. Steve Wallace suggested that redundancy and overuse of passive voice are the two most fatal errors that hinder Chinese researchers from publishing academic papers in international journals.


Dr. Wallace pinpointed that poor English is the major reason of why academic papers written by the Chinese researchers are rejected. He quoted what a journal reviewer commented on the rejected academic papers and said, “I am interested by the title at first, but when I read through the abstract, I see some English errors and my heart goes down. I turn to the second page, and when I see more and more errors, I would stop reading the paper.”


He further elaborated that journal reviewers would remain doubtful towards one’s academic paper if the author does not care about his English usage. They would regard papers written with poor English as highly risky in credibility.


According to the statistic provided by Dr. Wallace, redundancy is the most common error found in academic papers written by Chinese researchers. “People use many words to describe their findings, but these words are saying nothing. In fact, the more words you use, the more time it takes for the reviewer to read your work, and the lesser you can have your paper published.” He emphasized on using short and clear sentences so as to improve the quality of the academic papers.


In addition, overuse of passive voice is another common error. Dr. Wallace said in most fields, including medical, engineering, ophthalmology, science, behavioural ecology etc, scholars prefer using active voice in writing academic papers. He stated that one can only use passive voice for writing under three exceptional circumstances: 1) when the performer is unknown, irrelevant or obvious; 2) if the performer is less important than the action; and 3) if the recipient is the main topic. “If you don’t know or you don’t care about the subject, then you can use passive voice,” he added.


Dr. Wallace founded Wallace Academic Editing in 2006. He and his editing team primarily aim at assisting Chinese researchers to publish quality academic papers in international journals. Dr. Wallace also gives lectures on academic English writing skills at various universities, hospitals and research institutes in Taiwan. He is now delivering speeches on academic English writing skill at the universities in Hong Kong.


--125099 2013年10月29日 (二) 18:00 (UTC)

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