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Passive voice occurs when the verb’s agent (the doer) is not the subject of the sentence. Active voice occurs when the subject of a sentence performs the verb’s action.
Active voice is favored in most academic disciplines and everyday speech due to it is considered more assertive and less wordy. However, passive voice is favored in scientific disciplines since the observer may not be aware of what causes a phenomenom.
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Point-of-view is the perspective from which an essay is written. It can be written in the first, second, or third person perspective. Depending on the type of essay, a certain point-of-view may be preferred over others.
To learn more about the use of pronouns in emails and intrapersonal communication, check out the GEC's Pronouns Matter page.
First-person point of view is used to write stories/narratives or examples about personal experiences from your own life. It is the “I/we” perspective.
Pronouns: I, me, we, us
Note: Academic writing often requires us to avoid first-person point of view in favor of third-person point of view, which can be more objective and convincing.
Second-person point of view, which directly addresses the reader, works well for giving advice or explaining how to do something. It is the “you” perspective.
Note: Second person can be too casual for formal/academic writing, and it can also alienate the reader if the reader does not identify with the idea. In academic writing, sometimes "you" needs to be replaced with nouns or proper nouns to create more formality or to clarify the idea.
Third-person point of view identifies people by proper noun or noun. It is the he/she/it/they perspective. Most formal/academic writing uses the third person. This point of view is used when referring to any unnamed person, not when referring to someone who’s pronouns are they/them.
Pronouns: it, they, he, she, his, hers, theirs, her, him, they, them
Note: In the past, writers had to use the same pronoun throughout the essay when referring to an unnamed person, whether it was masculine or feminine. Today, writers are encouraged to avoid the automatic use of a gendered pronoun because it may be considered sexist language. However, there are some instructors who prefer the singular “he” or “she” to be used throughout your essay, so it is best to double-check what your instructor requires.
Metacommentary is when a writer comments on their commentary. Put plainly metacommentary occurs when the writer references a portion of their writing. It helps guide the audience to interpret and process what you have already stated or are about to state.
Some readers do not like metacommentary because it may interrupt their reading process to look at a previous or future paragraph. Some readers prefer more implied structural elements rather than the explicit markers that metacommentary creates.