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How passive voice weakens your scholarly argument

Thomas Sigel (T. Sigel Consulting/Sigel Press, Medina, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 22 May 2009




The purpose of this paper is to convey to authors that, by avoiding passive constructions in scholarly writing, academics can demonstrate a more thorough understanding of materials, thus strengthening arguments and presenting articles with clarity.


Based on 12 years' experience in academic publishing, the author has worked directly with major scholars and global publishing houses to shape and craft scholarly content to meet the needs of customers, namely, academics and students in higher education. The article responds to the complaint that passive voice weakens and muddles scholarly arguments.


The paper provides sound advice on how to structure one's writing in active voice in order to provide a solid, cogent argument that focuses on clarity and precision. It recognises that many scholars bog down their writing with passive voice and offers alternatives to combat passive voice.

Research limitations/implications

The paper suggests that scholars utilise active voice in scholarly writing, but it does not imply that one cannot implement passive voice construction in the appropriate context.

Practical implications

The study is a very useful guide for academics to help them hone their writing skills in order to produce quality articles that will clearly and cogently convey their scholarly arguments and allow them to stand out in an already crowded market.


The paper fulfils an identified information need and offers practical writing advice to academics who will be submitting articles for journal publication, as well as book chapters to academic presses.



Sigel, T. (2009), "How passive voice weakens your scholarly argument", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 478-480.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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