Grammar

Why Do Headline Writers Hate the Word ‘Being’?

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For some reason, some of my colleagues in the journalism world have a thing about the word being when it comes to headlines.

I’m not sure what the word being ever did to them.

But it must have done something really, really bad. So bad, in fact, that headline writers seem loath to use the little word.

I spotted the latest example of this phenomenon this week. I saw an article from Time magazine with this headline:

5 Hospitalized After Stung by Swarm of 40,000 Bees in California

“After stung?”

How about “after being stung?”

Doesn’t that read better for you? Doesn’t it make more sense?

I’m betting it does. I’m betting it’s far less distracting when the headline actually reads more like the way someone would say it out loud.

I don’t know anyone who’d ever drop being from that phrase.

I get it: headlines are supposed to be as short as possible while conveying a reason to read the story. Some suggest headlines should be 10 words or less, while others argue against arbitrary counts.

Early in my journalism days, when I worked for my high school newspaper, the then-editor-in-chief could walk up to anyone who was struggling to craft a headline and rattle off the perfect one right off the top of her head.

In a word, it was annoying. She could summarize a story in just enough words. Her headlines were never too long or too short.

But she never once proposed a headline like Time’s.

To be fair, I see similar headlines all the time. I often see it in stories about car accidents inolving pedestrians. Here are a few examples:

I actually called the Associated Press in New York and spoke to one of their AP Style gurus. (That was probably redundant: everyone who works for AP should, by default, be an AP Style guru.) The friendly employee told me that this construction was not AP Style.

I still haven’t been able to find any AP Style rules about dropping the word being from headlines like these.

Sure, the headlines are six characters shorter (the word plus a space). And you can figure out what they meant to say.

But I’d never allow that kind of phrasing. I’d happily take the six extra characters if I could avoid such an awkward construction.

I have no issue with the word being. I wish others didn’t.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.