English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Why is there a comma after "his" in the headline? Does this mean his AND his wife's experience? Is it correct english, or slang?

"Man discusses his, wife's experience being injured during the Boston marathon bombings."

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/boston-marathon-explosion-video-attack-victim-hard-mad-18969745

share|improve this question
Headlines have very relaxed "rules" of grammar; see also: chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/02/18/… – KutuluMike Apr 17 '13 at 1:48
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's short for "Man discusses his and his wife's experience...." It does not mean "Man discusses his wife's experience."

News headlines are trying to achieve maximum impact with as few words as possible, so they often take liberties with omitting unnecessary words, while preserving the message of the story.

This particular headline might be somewhat awkward English, but there's nothing technically incorrect about it.

share|improve this answer
I see this as a uniquely American style. It's frequently used in headlines there, but I don't recall ever seeing it in any UK newspapers/websites. – Alex Apr 16 '13 at 22:40

This is an offshoot of the usage of the serial comma, but without the conjunction.

"Man discusses his, wife's, son's, and daughter's experience." is typical and grammatically correct. It is expected that the "and" is implicit in the comma, and the list can be shortened to as few as two items.

share|improve this answer
And is often omitted before wife; his can only be omitted in headlines (and looks strange to me even then). – TimLymington Apr 16 '13 at 21:02
his can't ever be omitted without losing information, in this type of sentence (fragment) – Sparr Apr 16 '13 at 22:09
?? His has been omitted before wife's. This is peculiar, but does not reduce information. – TimLymington Apr 16 '13 at 22:13
@TimLymington ahh, you mean the difference in "his, his wife's" and "his, wife's". I thought you meant the still-there "his" could also be removed. – Sparr Apr 16 '13 at 23:45

Other answers explain why this happens. I will add that this is standard practice in the U.S., where a comma in a headline almost always means "and."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.