Clarifying the Actor: Introduction
Title: Clarifying the Actor
Speaker: Clear and direct communication is essential in academic writing, and it can be achieved by following APA style guidelines. When you clarify the actor in a sentence, you are telling the reader who is doing what. This puts the focus on the actor, or the subject, and creates strong and concise sentences. This module will help you learn to write clear statements by avoiding anthropomorphism, passive voice, and point of view errors. Click continue when you are ready to begin.
Title: Purpose of Writing in APA Style
Speaker: APA style has guidelines meant to add clarity, directness, and conciseness to sentences. These guidelines aid your reader, ensuring the reader follows your ideas. As the APA Manual says, clear communication is particularly important in scientific writing. As we continue in this module we will explore the importance of clarity in your writing, how certain ways of writing can cause confusion, and strategies for ensuring your writing is clear to your reader.
Title: Exploring Clarity
Speaker: Read the following paragraph, paying close attention to how clear each sentence is. Do you have any questions, or do you feel confused, at any time? Click each sentence to learn how the sentence could be unclear to a reader.
Title: Creating Clarity
Speaker: The example paragraph may have left you with several questions because it lacked a clear actor, or person doing the actions. You may have wondered who was doing the actions in each sentence throughout the passage. And, as you discovered, each sentence was unclear because of one of three problematic issues: anthropomorphism, passive voice, and point of view. In your own writing, you want to avoid these and instead create clear sentences that the reader can easily understand.
Title: What is Anthropomorphism?
Speaker: Anthropomorphism is when writers give human traits to inanimate objects or abstractions. It is something writers should avoid in academic writing and APA style because it is imprecise and creates confusion about who is doing what actions in a sentence. In this tutorial we will be exploring examples of anthropomorphism and ways to revise to avoid it. To begin, click the example shown for further explanation about why it is considered anthropomorphism. Click “Show Revision” to see a revision of this sentence that removes anthropomorphism. Click “Continue” when you’re ready to move forward.
Title: What is Anthropomorphism?
Speaker: Another way to explain anthropomorphism is that it occurs when a writer says that inanimate objects are completing actions that the writer or another person actually completed. For example, if someone writes “The book argued…”, a reader could imagine an actual book arguing a point. In reality, an author or a researcher, a living human being, is arguing. A clearer statement would be, “Smith argued….” The lack of clarity that can result from anthropomorphism is why anthropomorphism and scholarly writing don’t mix.
Title: Anthropomorphism Examples
Speaker: Here are sentences that include anthropomorphism. Click each sentence to reveal one possible revision that removes anthropomorphism from the sentence and creates clarity for the reader. Click “Continue” after you’ve explored each example and are ready to move forward.
Sentence 1: In the corrected sentence, the action is given to humans – researchers – and not the research itself. Remember, only humans are able to complete research.
Sentence 2: In the revision, the author of the study, Sweeney (2015), is reporting the survey’s findings since it is the author who actually reported the findings and the survey was only the instrument to record participants’ responses.
Sentence 3: The original sentence attributed the action of filling the gap in the literature to the study. However, the author of the study is actually the person doing the action. Thus, one option for revision is to explain that filling the gap is the purpose of the study.
Title: What is Passive Voice?
Speaker: Passive voice is a term a lot of us have heard, but may not know what it is. Passive voice occurs when a sentence is missing the person doing the action. In the example sentence, we can see the action or verb, “was implemented,” but it is hard to tell who “implemented” the program change.
In this tutorial we will be exploring examples of passive voice and ways to revise to avoid passive voice. To begin, click “Show Revision” to see a revision of this sentence to remove passive voice. Click “Continue” when you’re ready to move forward.
Title: Passive Voice Examples
Speaker: Here are sentences that include passive voice. Click each sentence to reveal one possible revision that removes passive voice from the sentence and creates clarity for the reader. Click “Continue” after you’ve explored each example and are ready to move forward.
Sentence 1: In the corrected sentence, the person who will be reporting the survey results is clarified: the author will report the results, so “I” is added to the sentence to revise the passive voice.
Sentence 2: In the revision, the person who diagnosed the patient is included, the psychologist. This removes passive voice and creates clarity.
Sentence 3: In this revision, the author who is studying at-risk children is included to clarify who is completing this action and to avoid passive voice.
Point of View
Title: What Is Passive Voice?
Speaker: Point of view is the perspective an author uses or writes from. You can identify the point of view by looking at the pronouns a writer users. A writer can write in the first, second, or third person point of view. In academic writing, however, some of these points of view can create clarity issues if they are misused.
In this tutorial we will be exploring examples of passive voice misuse and ways to revise sentences that misuse passive voice. Click “Continue” when you’re ready to begin.
Title: Misuse of First Person Plural: Our, We, and Us
Speaker: First person plural are the pronouns our, we, and us. These pronouns are generally avoided in academic writing because they can be vague, as the reader won’t know who is included in these pronouns. Instead, writers should generally limit their use of these pronouns to times they are writing something with other people.
In this sentence, for example, who does “our” refer to? The reader may not be part of this group, but the word “our” assumes the reader is. As a result, the reader can’t tell what group of people is behind the plan. Click “Show Revision” to see one possible revision of this sentence to improve its clarity. Click “Continue” when you’re ready to move forward.
Title: Misuse of Second Person: You
Speaker: A second person pronoun is you. This pronoun should also be avoided in academic writing because it directly addresses the reader, commanding the reader and including the reader directly into the sentence. The second person point of view can assume things about a reader that may not be true, and it is also considered too informal to be used in academic writing. Instead, writers should refer to specific groups to make sentences clear.
In this sentence, for example, the author directly addresses the reader. Click “Show Revision” to see one possible revision of this sentence to improve its clarity. Click “Continue” when you’re ready to move forward.
Title: First Person Singular and Third Person: Acceptable Uses
Speaker: The preferred points of view in academic writing are third person and first person. It is generally recommended that a writer use third person as much as possible (as in the first example) and first person when the content directly relates to the writer and his or her experiences (as in the second example).
Click “Continue” when you’re ready to move forward.
Title: First Person Singular and Third Person: Unacceptable Uses
Speaker: Sometimes the first person singular point of view is less acceptable. Often first person should not be used when you are talking about your own thoughts or beliefs. This is because in most academic writing assignments, you as the author should focus on presenting evidence-based ideas (ideas supported by research) rather than opinions.
In this example, the author’s use of the phrase “I think” emphasizes his opinion rather than indicating that this idea is evidence-based.
Click “show revision” to see one way the author could revise. Click “continue” when you’re ready to move forward.
Bringing It Together
Speaker: Although there is nothing grammatically incorrect about anthropomorphism, passive voice, or using certain points of view, these do create issues with a writer’s style. These issues lead to unclear and indirect sentences, which are best avoided in academic writing.