Death to “Zombie Words”

Journalist and former Random House publisher Harold Evans entertained NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday, with his pet peeves about the misuse of the English language.

As a result of their lively exchange, Evans’s new book, Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample) made a major leap up Amazon’s rankings, rising from #25,848 to #32.

The book addresses the “garbage” littering our prose. He particularly hates “zombie words,” nouns that are turned into verbs, because they drain “the sentences of vigor and immediacy,” he says, “It’s like a virus.”

The book is “a punchy follow-up to an earlier journalistic primer (Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers) that’s still a standard at many British universities,” notes The Hollywood Reporter in a lengthy interview with Evans, that focuses on the documentary Attacking the Devil, about Evans’s early journalistic fight against the drug thalidomide.

Evans stars in the doc, which the The Weinstein Co. will distribute in the US. A feature film is also in the works and Hugh Grant is “said to be among the contenders vying for the lead.” Although Evans jokes, “I think I may hold out for Brad Pitt to play me. He’s a better likeness, don’t you think?”

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