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Yesterday I was rewatching the movie "Into the Wild", and noticed that protagonist writes next phrase:

HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED

and, I'm not native english speaker, but is he missed the is? Should it be:

HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED

or it's ok to skip is in that particular case?

enter image description here

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Lunivore, Mitch, MετάEd, tchrist Jun 27 '13 at 2:33

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified." – MετάEd, tchrist
  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – FumbleFingers, Lunivore, Mitch
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I've closevoted as General Reference. Igor - questions at this level would be better asked on English Language Learners. In general you should assume the verb is is grammatically required in cases like this. But personal jottings, newspaper headlines, etc., don't always follow "the rules". –  FumbleFingers Jun 26 '13 at 21:57
    
and talking about newspaper headlines, we are talking about NY Times level or some yellow press? –  igor milla Jun 26 '13 at 22:42
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I don't know the context in the film, but if you are writing notes to yourself, provided no-one else needs to read it, you can write it in whatever form you want - shorthand, 'double dutch', abbreviations, ... whatever. The rules of grammar don't apply when writing notes to yourself! –  TrevorD Jun 26 '13 at 23:19
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Many rules of grammar still apply when writing notes to yourself, since you want to be able to understand the notes later. English always has grammar. It's just a different set of rules than you would use if you were writing to other people. –  bdsl Jun 26 '13 at 23:23
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@bdsl Debatable - but this is not the place to discuss it. I merely meant that the only requirement is that "you want to be able to understand the notes later", so - with that proviso - you can use whatever language, dialect, grammar, etc. you care to. –  TrevorD Jun 26 '13 at 23:39

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This kind of construction would not be accepted as grammatical by the vast majority of English speakers for general use. However, it's quite common when writing annotations, short notes, or in other limited contexts to drop, 'is', 'are' or other words that can be clearly inferred from the context. The full sentence should be read as:

Happiness [is] only real when [it is] shared

This abbreviated use of language is similar to Headlinese.

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good answer. So, just to clarify a little bit, are all these people made a huge mistake, and this phrase looks grammatically incorrect without knowing the context? link –  igor milla Jun 26 '13 at 22:48
    
'Not grammatically correct'? The link given by p.s.w.g. contains 'The vocabulary and grammatical constructs used in headlines have become so culturally ingrained that they are often encountered even where there are no space constraints.' There is no grammar czar to adjudicate when a usage becomes 'so culturally ingrained' that it ceases to be 'not grammatically correct'. –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '13 at 22:56
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@igormilla It's not grammatically correct, but I imagine the people that chose to get "HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED" tattoos know full well what the context is (and probably like the fact that it's not grammatically correct as a sort of inside reference). –  p.s.w.g Jun 26 '13 at 22:57
    
@EdwinAshworth That's true, but this construction is generally accepted only within limited contexts. I've updated my answer with wording that should be a bit more acceptable. –  p.s.w.g Jun 26 '13 at 23:06

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