Tag Archive | writing advice

Zombies & Recognizing Passive Voice



Zombies and Grammarly help identify your passive voice.

Just in time for all your Halloween stories, and, well . . . everything else. Zombies to the rescue!

I must admit, if I was schooled (by zombies – passive voice) regarding passive voice versus active voice in my writing, I’ve long since forgotten the lesson. I honestly never think about it, until I click post and the WordPress grammar genie in my tablet pops up with a message, Whoa, you may wanna check a few things before you do this, I found some things you missed. Thank you WordPress grammar genie for frustrating and enlightening me.

Sometimes I ignore, sometimes I learn. Most of the time I don’t care. It’s my blog. But, when I came across this post from Grammarly, it caught my eye and I started to give it a bit of thought. Seemed worthy of sharing, so here I am, sharing.

Original text from Grammarly

“Rebecca Johnson you’re a genius. Teachers everywhere should rejoice, and so should any students who haven’t yet mastered passive voice. If you’re still new to this and aren’t sure how passive voice works or why Rebecca’s work-around is so boo-tiful, let us explain.

Passive Voice

Odds are high that you have, at some point in your life, had passive voice marked on an essay or piece of writing. Odds are higher that you probably had no idea what in the world that meant. Basically, it is this. Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence. (Active voice is when the noun doing the action is the subject.) Let me explain with an example.

“The house was haunted.”

“The house” is the noun being acted upon, in other words “house” is the object of the verb “to haunt”. It’s clear here that the house is not doing the haunting. It is not doing the action. It is receiving the action. However, it is the subject of the sentence, which makes this sentence a passive voice sentence. (In an active voice sentence, the noun performing the action should be the subject. In this case, the active voice version would be: “Ghosts haunted the house.”)

Using “by zombies” to help identify passive voice

If you are still having trouble understanding passive voice, here is where Rebecca’s idea can help. Usually (but not always), passive voice can include the actor, usually following the verb. Basically, if you can add “by zombies” after the verb and it makes sense, you probably have passive voice.

“The town was attacked (by zombies).”

Yes, this makes sense; therefore, it is a passive voice sentence. To make this sentence active, you will need to put the noun doing the action in the subject location of the sentence. That is: “Zombies attacked the town.” Now we can check for passive voice:

“Zombies attacked the town (by zombies).”

No, this doesn’t make sense; therefore it is active voice.

These are simple examples and not every passive voice sentence will be identifiable with this trick, but it will help for a significant number of examples.”

I have an issue with that.


I have an issue with that, the word that, that is. The word itself is useful enough, important even at times; other times, not so much.

First, the fundamentals. That is typically considered a function word, meaning it has a function, a subordinating conjunction function. I couldn’t resist.

That is used to introduce a clause stating a reason or purpose, to introduce a clause that is the subject or object of a verb, and used to introduce a clause completing or explaining the meaning of a previous noun or adjective.

To be honest, an entire page could be written regarding the various uses for the word in question, I think I’ll skip it and get to the point of this piece. If you’re interested in learning all there is to know about the word that, and who wouldn’t be, Google has you covered.

My particular peeve is the unnecessary overuse of this particular four letter, subordinating conjunction. One of the first things that I do when I’m sent something to edit or critique is eliminate the word that everywhere that it can be eliminated.

I’ll use a recent email that I received – I was wondering if you could check out this essay that I wrote. I was hoping that you could give me some tips that I could use to make it better. I think that it’s pretty good but I want to make sure that it is.

My reply – I was wondering if you could check out this essay that I wrote. I was hoping that you could give me some tips that I could use to make it better. I think that it’s pretty good but I want to make sure that it is.

I would be happy to look over your work and provide you with any insights or advice I can. My first piece of advice, is to go through your essay and remove the word that, as I have done above, wherever possible, and copy it back to me.

With just this simple edit, her essay took on a maturity that it was lacking, it became more readable, and ultimately, more likely to meet her professors expectations.

Most of us are guilty of inserting the word that where it isn’t necessary. When I find old articles or stories that I’d written before I had my grand epiphany about the word, I cringe at the number of times I see it sprinkled throughout the text. It wasn’t until I started editing for others that I noticed how choppy and unrefined something reads when that is practically used as a comma throughout their work.

Obviously, sometimes you need the word that, I don’t want to vilify the poor word, quite the opposite, I want to give it the dignity it’s deserving of. Following one pretty simple rule makes it easy, if your sentence is not going to lose meaning without the word that, you don’t need it.

Example: I was hoping that we could have a picnic this afternoon.
I was hoping we could have a picnic this afternoon.

The second example has better flow.

When you begin your next work of words, be on the lookout for that and make certain that it is being utilized properly. Before you hit enter or publish or send, take a minute to double-check, it will make a difference, I can almost guarantee it.

Crystal R. Cook