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The Subversive Copy Editor Takes on Grammar’s Zombie Rules


Split infinitives, over versus more than, and passive voice—fewer things have a tendency to launch otherwise reasonable people into a lengthy professorial lecture than real or perceived violations of immutable grammar and style rules.

But Carol Fisher Saller has little time for immutable rules, so she's loading up her gear and joining “Chicago Tonight” to take on some zombies.

Zombie rules, that is. Saller, editor of the Chicago Manual of Style Online Q&A and author of The Subversive Copy Editor, joins us to dispel the myths and send some zombie rules to a final resting place.


If you’ve seen Carol Fisher Saller on "Chicago Tonight" before, you know she’s an advocate for common sense. A senior manuscript editor for the University of Chicago Press, Saller’s big on open communication between writers and editors and a thoughtful application of the rules. As long as they’re not zombies.

“Zombie rules” sometimes aren’t even rules – they’re just ideas people have gotten into their heads about the proper way to use the English language. Other times, they’re rules that were once hard and fast but have long since become outdated.

Saller says editors are often guilty of keeping these zombies alive, and that people cling to things they were taught long ago, without ever bothering to freshen up their knowledge of grammar. Here’s a post on zombie rules Saller recommends

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