#WordWednesday Past pleading for pled

dictionary words, vocabulary

dictionary words, vocabularyWe’re kicking off a new regular feature (and hashtag) today: #WordWednesday. Words are central to blogging and indeed to communication in general. They are, arguably, what sets us apart from every other species on the planet. Using words well is what sets professional writers and communicators apart from everyone else. #WordWednesday celebrates words and encourages everyone to use them well.

The first Wednesday Word is pled.

Pled is the past and past particle of plead which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means to make an emotional appeal or to present and argue a position, particularly in a public context or legal proceeding. Indeed, it was while reading an article about Rebekah Brooks pleading not guilty to phone hacking charges that I stumbled across pleaded. Pleaded is one of my pet word peeves. I just want to take a red pen and correct it every time I see it, leaving the content looking like it had been mauled by a bear or a shark.

Unfortunately for me, it appears that pleaded is taking over as the past tense of plead in the modern vocabulary on both sides of the pond. Pleaded is a real word and there are instances when I would agree it is proper to use it such as in front of an infinitive or with direct speech. Where pleaded annoys me the most is when it is used to describe a plea entered in a court of law, not because it is an incorrect use of the word but because it doesn’t sound right.

“So-and-so pleaded guilty” just sounds horrible. “So-and-so pled not guilty” flows much more smoothly from the tongue. It reads better as well. For some reason the double-d sounds of pleaded is just jarring. It’s a minor chord played, often repeatedly, during a symphony in a major key. The dissonance it creates in an otherwise well-turned phrase, sentence, paragraph or article is all the more annoying because it is unnecessary.

The past tense of other words containing a long e before d have not taken on the dreaded “ed”. No one says a person bleeded out or that they feeded the dog. We say a color bled all over another shirt or that the babysitter fed the kids before bedtime. You would think that pled would just be the natural choice when talking about the past tense of plead. Why then do so many people insist on using pleaded? More importantly, how can I get them to stop?

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