Halloween is fast approaching, so it's no surprise that A List Apart's recent article Attack of the Zombie Copy, caught my attention. While author Erin Kissane's description of zombie content is hilarious, "They're not hard to recognize: syntax slack and drooling, clauses empty of everything but a terrible hunger for human brains," I would agree that the zombies are out there, and they're multiplying. Kissane proclaims that the scourge is upon us, and offers the following course to save yourself from zombie content:
- Kill the modifiers. This is machete work, so wrap a bandanna around your face and grab some shop goggles. No reader is going to believe that your process is innovative or your product is world-class just because you say so, so kill those adjectives. Don't feel sorry for them. They have no feelings.
- Determine what manner of monster you're dealing with. Once you've cleared the modifiers away, you'll be able to get a better idea of the real shape of what's underneath. If you can paraphrase the revealed sentence in a simpler way, the paraphrase can guide you to a new, clearer version.
- Hit 'em in the head, right between the eyes. Once the sentences' underlying form has been revealed, you'll be able to start looking at the overall health of paragraphs and pages. You may find that whacking the modifiers and simplifying the sentences will reveal a mushy glop of circular logic and nonsense; if so, it's time to deliver a merciful death. If, on the other hand, your copy is only mostly dead, you can revive it by excising meaningless or redundant passages and then patching up the remainder with transitions and clarifications.