In the following sentence I want to use the word "being". I was told that my use of the word "being" is confusing or unclear. Can I write "being" as "be-ing"? Is that even an acceptable way to write the word?

I am saying the members of nature are being without trying to be.

He depicts the quiet [being or be-ing] of the inhabitants of nature as deliberate living and the busy misdirected life of the working man as without reward or self-actualization.

  • Are you trying to contrast existing and living? If so, then the be-ing version is clearer than the being version.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 27, 2016 at 1:24
  • I find the "He depicts ..." sentence very hard to understand with either "being" or "be-ing". Renee: Definitions work better when they don't use the word that they are supposed to be defining. Your question would be clearer if you described what you are trying to say (with the "He depicts ..." sentence) without using "being" or "be" in the description. Sep 27, 2016 at 1:46
  • I am saying the members of nature are existing without trying to be more of what they are. This is part of a paper about Thoreau's philosophy and that is why the whole thought is a bit complicated. As I wrote my descriptive example, I got quite a chuckle. Sep 27, 2016 at 5:41
  • 1, yes I am saying, "...the quiet existence of nature as deliberate living..." and so you are saying I can correctly split the word be-ing in this sentence in that case? Sep 27, 2016 at 5:55
  • 2, I am saying the members of nature are without trying to be more of or do more to be what they are. This is a sentence out of a paper on Thoreau and that is why it is a bit complicated. Sep 27, 2016 at 5:57

1 Answer 1


Being noun 2 [in singular] The nature or essence of a person. ‘sometimes one aspect of our being has been developed at the expense of the others’ - ODO

The phrase "the quiet [being] of the inhabitants of nature" strongly elicits the definition above. That is, it tends to read as "the quiet essence of ...".

Since the comments suggest that you are distinguishing between existence and living, and wish to express existence in your sentence, the sense you're trying to elicit is slightly different. You're referencing the continuous tense of be (coloured in this case as mere existence):

be verb 1 Exist. ‘I think, therefore I am’ - ODO

You also ask:

Can I write "being" as "be-ing"? Is that even an acceptable way to write the word?

Consider this from Grammar Girl, a respected writer on grammar:

Sometimes, the placement of a hyphen changes the meaning of your sentence. Let’s say you want a “hot-water bottle.” With a hyphen between “hot” and “water” you clearly want a water bottle for holding hot water because “hot” and “water” are joined by a hyphen. Without the hyphen between “hot” and “water, you might want a water bottle that is hot. See how the presence or absence of a hyphen could change the meaning?
The more likelihood there is for confusion, the more you need a hyphen.

YourDictionary.com says something similar:

The fact is, there’s really no set of hyphen rules on which every person can agree.
Hyphens can be useful to avoid confusion.

From the above, I'd argue that you should use the hyphenated form be-ing in your context because it elicits the 'be' sense more strongly than the 'being' sense (with respect to the two definitions cited above). It's a legitimate use of the hyphen (avoiding confusion) because the 'being' sense would otherwise dominate.

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