Tuesday, September 16, 2003

A plea to my fellow copy editors: Yes, it's often OK to omit "says" and the "to be" and "helper" verbs in heds. But please limit this to the main verb.
Wrong: Council says governor stupid.
Right: Council calls governor stupid.

Wrong: Jury says suspect guilty.
Right: Jury finds suspect guilty, or Jury says suspect is guilty.
Bill Walsh's great book, "Lapsing into a Comma," covers this. He says, "You cannot assume the reader will fill in the was or is for anything but the main verb." Find another way to write it, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


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