Why we often use the passive voice in healthcare letters

The most simple sentence structure in the English language is:
Noun + verb.
If the noun is doing the action described by the verb, the noun is known as a subject.E.g. The doctor consulted. (“doctor” is the subject of this sentence).

If the action described by the verb is being done to someone or something, the recipient of the action is known as the object. We add this noun after the verb:
E.g. The doctor consulted the patient. (“doctor” is the subject and “patient” is the object).
This sentence structure is:
Subject + verb + object

Using the passive voice allows us to do two useful things in healthcare letters:
1. Focus on the object of a sentence by putting it first.
2. Save space by leaving out the subject (that is, the noun actually doing the action).

The sentence structure in usage #1 is:
Object + Passive verb + subject./span>
E.g. The patient was consulted by the doctor.
This allows us to focus the reader’s attention on the patient, rather than the doctor, by putting them first in the sentence. This is useful in discharge and referral letters, because the patient is the most important focus of the letter.

The sentence structure in usage #2 is:
The patient was consulted.
This is very useful if the person or thing that did the action isn’t as important as the person who received the action. It also allows us to leave out irrelevant information. For example, “the patient was admitted on 27/08/17” is more concise than “the patient was admitted on 27/08/17 by a doctor”. It doesn’t really matter who admitted the patient, so it’s best to leave this information out when doing the OET Writing Test.

Overall, passive voice can be a very useful tool in improving your letter in the OET Writing Test!

26 August 2017

Anna Brzeska

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