I feel silly asking this but I can't find the answer anywhere (including CMOS, dictionaries, etc.). I am a professional editor and am struggling with an author who uses "being" in the following way: He has a sleeve of tattoos on his left arm—the most prominent being a picture of Bettie Page. I mostly see this usage in romances or with British authors. What is "being" and why should I not change it to "is" to retain her phrasing. Thank you!!!

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    That usage of "being" seems commonplace enough to me. I am not sure why you think it is more common in romances (what are those?) or with British authors. – Kristina Lopez May 31 '16 at 16:52
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    You should not change it because it is perfectly standard (I speak AmE). But still, I'm interested in knowing if there's a name for this use of 'being' and/or construction. – GoldenGremlin May 31 '16 at 17:07
  • You ask "What is 'being'?". It's the present continuous tense of the verb to be, just as is is the simple present tense of the verb to be. – TrevorD May 31 '16 at 17:14
  • @MarkHubbard But OP's phrase is not "*being that" - it's simply "being", and could not be replaced by "being that". Neither is it used in the sense of "because" or "since". To me, the phraseology being sounds quite natural & correct in the above context. – TrevorD May 31 '16 at 17:37
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    I wouldn't expect any competent native speaker to be bothered about such a commonplace usage, so I think this question belongs on English Language Learners – FumbleFingers May 31 '16 at 18:42

The difference is actually rather simple. If you use is, then the second part is a sentence in its own right. You are writing two sentences, and I would actually expect a full stop to separate them.

If you use being, the second part of the sentence is an absolute clause (thank you @ColinFine) that brings further information about the word "tattoos". As the wikipedia link given notes, it "is not particularly common in modern English and is generally more often seen in writing than in speech".

For what it's worth I would definitely write being in this case.

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    It's an Absolute clause, and is common in writing, though not so common in speech. – Colin Fine May 31 '16 at 19:14
  • @ColinFine thanks, edited that in to my answer -- the link may in itself be the answer OP is looking for! – Law29 May 31 '16 at 20:55

Thank you; I'll look at these! I'm not really asking whether it "sounds" right or wrong (because that's subjective) but whether it's technically correct in that construction. If I substitute "is," it's still acceptable by this publisher in fiction, due to the em dash. If it had been separated by a comma, it would then, yes, constitute an independent clause and be incorrect. It is a dependent clause, either way, with that punctuation... Looking at "Fumble Fingers'" reference to "Being in participle clauses, it indicates one is an alternative to another and neither is incorrect. Within its context of the novel, it seems a bit pretentious, which I why I queried it.

As far as why I think it's more common in romances, that's just my experience. I've edited probably 150 books and see it more commonly in romance novels or in British or academic publications.

Thank you, all!

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  • Some kind of "technically correct" which is distinct from whether it "sounds right" to (many, most, or a majority of) native speakers harks back to prescriptivism, which has been largely replaced in both academic and armchair linguistics for a number of decades, by descriptivism. In this framework, if "everyone says it that way" and "no one would be bothered upon encountering it", then it is technically correct. Full stop. – Dan Bron Jun 1 '16 at 20:32
  • (Also, on the topic of technical correctness: technically, answers are for answering the question. If you'd like to thank people or follow-up on their answers, you should post comments.) – Dan Bron Jun 1 '16 at 20:33
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    Thank you, Dan! As far as technical correctness, I have to answer to a major publishing house with their in-house editors on this book if it's not technically correct. If it's just a matter of style, voice, etc., but is not grammatically incorrect (per CMOS and other references) then I have latitude. There are facets of writing that are commonplace but not "correct", like use of "then" as a preposition, that I have to document during editing, if I choose to keep them. Thank you again. I am new here and apologize for misusing the "answer" field to thank people! – S'cott Jun 1 '16 at 20:40

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