« Writing About Ourselves: Bragging Without Blushing | Main | Review: Interested in Language? You’ll Love This Book »

January 09, 2020


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Maria Soininen

Would-be stabber shot dead near Paris by French police
French police shot would-be stabber dead near Paris

"Would-be stabber" makes it clear that the attempt failed. The "shoot dead man" is problematic and can be avoided by using stabber instead. I also think that it's unnecessary to emphasize the gender of the stabber.

I think the passive voice works here because it emphasizes the original perpetrator.

There's also a significant difference in attitude to lethal police shootings between the US and Europe. In most parts of Europe, lethal violence is a last resort, only condoned when there's no other choice and when it's necessary to protect other people and it's often seen as a necessary evil or even a failure of procedure. It's certainly nothing to be proud of or brag about. That's why I think the French police would prefer the headline in the passive voice.


I like Maria's comment. The only thing I might change is "French" as in "French police". One can generally assume that it would be local/domestic police involved in such an incident and not police from another country.


My favourite was a story in the British press about "ladies of the night" in Italy taking some kind of legal dispute to the Vatican:

"Prostitutes Appeal To Pope."

Anita Roberts

Stabber fatally shot by police near Paris.

The article says one of the victims was severely injured, so it sounds like more than an "attempted" stabbing. Also, the article first says BFM TV and then BFTM TV. It sounds like Reuters needs an editor.


Man shot dead by police after stabbing attempt in Paris


After stabbing attempt near Paris, police fatally shoot suspect

Business Writing Blog

Thank you, Maria, Kate, Nick, Anita, Taryn, and Tina. I appreciate your interesting ideas.

Here's my version:

--French police shoot man dead near Paris after stabbing attack

As you can see, I used "shoot man dead" rather than "shoot dead man." I also called it a stabbing attack rather than a stabbing attempt. After all, one victim was injured severely.

Maria, I am glad to have read your thoughts about police shootings in Europe. With those in mind, and considering Kate's comment, I would change my headline this way:

--Police shoot man dead near Paris after stabbing attack

Maria, I would likely not use "would-be" because the attacker did inflict serious harm, as Anita noted. But I would use it if the individual had done no damage.

Taryn, I like to avoid passive verbs, but your sentence does work.

Tina, I would prefer to begin with the main news--the police shooting--but I like your use of "suspect."

Nick, thanks for the humor!


Carie Wingert

Stabbing suspect dead after being shot by police.

Patty Rechberger

I would re-write it as "Man stabs several people near Paris, gets killed by police".

Business Writing Blog

Hi Carrie,

Your version is clear. Since the article appeared in "The Jerusalem Post," adding the location would be helpful.

Thanks for participating.


Business Writing Blog

Hi Patty,

Thanks for joining in. I'm not sure about "stabs several people." That's only because the article says that the man "tried to stab several people." Was he lunging and missing them (with one exception)? We don't know.

Consider using "is killed" rather than "gets killed." It's shorter for a headline. Also, "gets" seems informal in this situation. It suggests that the attacker got himself killed, which though true, feels informal, at least to me.

What do you think?




Business Writing Blog

Hello Adeyi,

I like your use of "Fatally Shot" to replace "Shot Dead." I think I would move "by French Police" next to "Shot." "Near Paris by French Police" doesn't seem like the best flow.

Still, I would prefer your wording with an active voice verb: "French Police Fatally Shoot Attempted Stabber Near Paris." The active voice verb removes any concern about the placement of a prepositional phrase with "by."

Thanks for participating!


Shub Chowdhury

French Police kills suspected stabber
- Active voice
- concise

Business Writing Blog

Yes, that's active voice. And let's use "kill" to agree with the word "police," which is considered plural in English.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)