February 20, 2014

Weekly Language Usage Tips: Include into, passive voice

Posted in active/passive voice, incude into at 6:17 am by dlseltzer

Tip: Include into, passive voice

A reader writes:

This is a question for wlut:

Can I say ‘include into’? I would guess either ‘include in’ or ‘add into’ but I am not sure if there is an alternative and if in fact “include into” may be correct. Here is the context. Please let me know what you think.

Variables … were included in a stepwise fashion into the multivariable model.

The quick answer is this: the reader is right to say ‘include in’ is correct but not ‘include into.’ I would add that it is not correct to say ‘add into,’ but ‘add to’ would be correct.

But the bigger problem, here, is that ‘included’ is not the right word to use in this sentence. ‘Include’ means ‘contain’ or ‘to have as contents.’ When something is ‘included’ it is just there; it isn’t doing anything, so something wouldn’t  be ‘included’ in a ‘stepwise’ or any other fashion. The variables would just be there. You could say:

Variables were added to the multivariable model in a stepwise fashion.

[NOTE: I changed the order of the phrases in the sentence for clarity. It wasn’t wrong to put ‘in a stepwise fashion’ in the middle of the sentence—it’s just more straightforward this way.]

But the even bigger problem, here, is that the sentence is written in the passive voice. By making the sentence active, we bring the actor into the picture, and the actor can, indeed, include something. For example,

We included additional variables in the multivariable model in a stepwise fashion.

or

 Researchers added variables to the multivariable model in a stepwise fashion.

 We’ve talked about the active versus passive voice before. As you know, it used to be the case that we used the passive voice for scientific writing in the thought that is demonstrated the investigator’s objectivity. It took the ‘I’ out of science. But that is no longer the case.

The active voice is so much more lively and more interesting to read. It allows the writer to tell you directly who is doing what. There are times when it makes sense to use the passive voice—but not too many. So stick with the active voice, and show us the action.

If you want more information on this, it’s been written up I have written about it in the wlut many times and in much more detail . See: https://languagetips.wordpress.com/category/activepassive-voice/

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