Zombies Can Help You Identify Passive Voice – No, Really!

Have you been tasked with editing documents or articles and removing passive voice? You can easily recognize passive voice sentences when the actor and the word “by” appear after the verb, like in this example: Millions of precision machine tools are manufactured by Australian companies. But what about when the actor is absent from the sentence? You might find it more difficult to see whether the sentence is passive (and also how to reword it) when the actor is missing, like in this example: The presentations, worksheets, and notes are stored in the training folder.

The Grammarly blog has a suggestion: If you can add the phrase “by zombies” after the verb, then the sentence is likely passive. Doing this mental exercise can help you identify sentences that you may want to reword to include an actor.

Passive: The presentations, worksheets, and notes are stored in the training folder (by zombies).
Active: The development team stored the presentations, worksheets, and notes in the training folder.

Don’t like zombies? Then use “by cowboys,” “by dragons,” or another phrase that you will remember. Happy editing!

Lisa Mileusnich