What is the term (if such a term exists at all) for writing something in past passive, but in abbreviated or headline form? Some examples:

Full sentence: The order was placed.
Headline past passive: Order placed

Full: The movie was shown.
HPP: Movie shown

Full: The files were downloaded.
HPP: Files downloaded
  • 1
    Headlinese is a very special variety of writing. It doesn't even exist in speech, and follows very arbitrary rules. Not the same rules as the language does, often enough, leading to Crash Blossoms, which are inadvertently humorous headlines that occur when too much is cut out. Aug 4, 2016 at 15:16
  • @JohnLawler So could we say the term is "past passive headlinese"? (I hadn't heard of the term headlinese before.)
    – Pistos
    Aug 4, 2016 at 15:45
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    @Pistos you can read more about headlinese here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlinese
    – Gary
    Aug 4, 2016 at 15:52
  • ... According to Google, 'past passive headlinese' hasn't been used before. But then neither has 'pusillanimous puce puppies', which isn't exactly 'wrong', but doesn't sound too wonderful either. I'd stick with "headlinese involving article and be-deletion from sentences using the past passive". / "Job done" is used conversationally. Aug 4, 2016 at 15:56
  • There's no reason to mention either past or passive; they're irrelevant. What gets deleted in headlinese is short function words like is, was, got, the, of, etc. Predictable stuff. But they're not predictable for lots of readers, who don't hear them with the intonation the writers intended. Aug 4, 2016 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


You may want telegraphese - language that conveys the basic information in as laconic a manner as possible, to save on transmission costs (I think people paid by the word). Note that it doesn't have to appear in a past passive context, eg In gaol. Send money urgently.

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