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Passive Voice: The Zombie Test


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This is a test I learned a few years ago to help identify passive voice. It isn't necessarily 100% accurate, but it's a good litmus test:

If a sentence still makes sense when you add "by zombies," it's probably written in passive voice.

Example: "The ring was given to the woman" is passive voice. "The ring was given to the woman by zombies" makes sense. "Someone gave the woman a ring" is active voice. "Someone gave the woman a ring by zombies" doesn't make sense.

Over the past few years, the writers whose work I regularly edit have come to learn that a comment of "zombies!" means they need to rewrite the sentence in active voice. "Zombie Attack" and "Zombie Apocalypse" are reserved for whole paragraphs or chapters written in passive voice.

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I don't think I've ever heard this tip before but I agree that it is very handy as it is truly memorable. I've long since forgotten the lessons I've learned in elementary regarding terminologies of sentence structures etc but I remember doing something similar to remember this which is to use "by" at the end and it helped me a lot in passing my English subjects.

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