3

If "New account created" is passive. Why there not "account was/is created"? I have seen a lot of similar examples.

  • If I were forced to try to fill in the blanks, I'd probably write "A new account has been created". – snailcar Dec 22 '17 at 20:24
  • I think you might enjoy learning Arabic :-) – Mehrdad Dec 23 '17 at 7:13
  • What is it about the Arabic language that might make him enjoy learning it? – Michael Rybkin Dec 23 '17 at 12:30
9

It's a form of "headlinese" or "telegraphese".

The form of "to be" ("is" or "was") can be omitted when there is little space. For example a newspaper headline could read:

Trump and Clinton working to flip states in their favor

New skyscraper biggest in world

In both cases a form of "to be" has been omitted.

As you note the same thing can be done with a passive particle:

New window created.

This sort of clipped speech creates potential ambiguities, which are resolved pragmatically from the context.

John skipped

One would have to rely on context to decide if that means "John was omitted", or "John hopped and danced as he was walking."

  • 3
    As a footnote, this type of speech is extremely common in UI notifications and alerts (even when there's plenty of space!). I just thought that might be worth specifically mentioning since it sounds like the context the OP may have been in. – joiedevivre Dec 22 '17 at 19:19
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    As a footnote to joiedevivre's footnote, computer notifications and alerts were originally very terse and clipped because the computer didn't have enough memory to store more than a few words; nowadays it's just tradition. – zwol Dec 23 '17 at 5:39
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    On the "creates potential ambiguities" thing, I'm reminded of a Mickey Spillane novel in which we are told that a man persuaded a judge that he shouldn't be fined for smoking in a subway car, because the posted sign said NO SMOKING ALLOWED. The man argued that this meant, "I am allowed not to smoke, if I don't want to. By implication, that also leaves me the option of smoking, if that is my preference. Nothing on that sign says 'Smoking is not allowed' or 'Smoking is prohibited.'" So again, that was a case of omitting the "to be" verb and thereby creating room for differing interpretations. – Lorendiac Dec 23 '17 at 12:14
10

It's very common in English to omit little things like articles and different forms of the verb to be in situations where being concise and to the point is more important than being syntactically complete which is very common in public signage, Internet notification messages, graphical user interfaces and things of that nature. While you don't really lose anything in meaning, that way things certainly become easier and faster to read. And that, believe it or not, is the whole point of it.

I'm not one hundred percent sure if this is directly related to something called headlinese (the same thing done with news article titles and headlines), but the concepts are no doubt very similar. For example, instead of saying "The NASA astronaut who was the first to fly untethered in outer space dies at the age of 80", a typical news headline would read:

NASA astronaut, 1st to fly untethered in space, dies at 80

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