Active duty for the undead

Sometimes I think journalists have an obsession with zombies.* (Or is it that the world at large has one right now?)

If you have a zombie thing, why not put it to good use as an editing agent. The zombie rule can help you determine if the sentence you are writing is passive.

I first heard about the zombie rule from American Copy Editors Society colleague Andy Bechtel, who said he wasn’t the originator. How does it work? If you can add “by zombies” to the end of a sentence and the sentence makes logical sense, then the sentence is passive.

“The parking ticket bill was passed (by zombies).” Get it? It’s a passive sentence. Whereas “The City Council passed the parking ticket bill (by zombies)” doesn’t make sense. So active sentence.

One of ACES grammar stalwarts, Lisa McLendon of the Bremner Editing Center at the University of Kansas, just did a fun video about active and passive voice and the zombie rule. She demonstrates it better than I could. So watch it! (Yes, I used an exclamation point.)

* In addition to Lisa’s video, another ACES colleague, Fred Vultee, also mentioned zombies in his blog this week.

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