Scientific writing - we vs. I

Sabine Dippel sabine at
Thu Mar 27 11:47:19 EST 1997

In article <333A9A37.7F6D at>, S L Forsburg <forsburg at> 
|> I had conflicting training, owing to having a degree in both  English
|> and 
|> Molecular Biology.  In writing for my English degree, the passive
|> voice was rejected soundly.  In writing for molecular biology,
|> the passive was embraced for the reasons Robin discusses.  Personally I 
|> can't stand the passive, which is awkward, and to me attempts to
|> imply that the experiments did themselves.  In my view, they 
|> didnt;  I, or we, did them, so I write in the active voice.  I don't
|> view it as "tooting our own horns" (aside directed at  non-native 
|> English speakers, do you have a similar idiom for boasting 
|>  in your native language?), so much as accepting responsibility.
|> -- susan

I agree wholeheartedly. I do simulations (i.e. computer experiments), and the
simulations give a result. No passive needed in this sentence. A while ago,
we discussed in this newsgroup why some scientific texts are so hard to read -
maybe because people listen rather to their training in scientific writing 
(the biology degree) than to that in writing (English)? 

I remember my advisor complaining some time ago about people who "cannot simply
write things down as they would say them" - referring to a masters thesis. Sure,
there are things you say you would never write down - but does it always have 
to be so very formal that it loses all liveliness? 

BTW - I asked around in the lab - nobody could come up with a german idiom for 
boasting similar to "tooting our own horns" - we only came up with 
"sich in den Vordergrund draengen", which my dictionary (whom I do not always 
trust) translates with "to push oneself to the fore(front)". 

Sabine (who still hasn't gotten any answer on the "we" vs. "I" question)

| Sabine Dippel     | e-mail: s.dippel at                  | 
| HLRZ              | phone : [++49] (2461) 61-2318                   | 
| FZ Juelich        | fax   : [++49] (2461) 61-2430                   | 
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