Grammar Pleaded vs. Pled and Enormity Defined |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Pleaded vs. Pled and Enormity Defined

Today I will answer a couple of questions I received from radio listeners when I was a guest.

Question: Should you say “pleaded guilty” or “pled guilty”? Answer: Either one is considered correct.

Question: Does “enormity” mean “something monstrous” or “something huge”? Answer: In formal writing, enormity has nothing to do with something’s size. The word is frequently misused: the “enormity” of football linemen, or the “enormity” of the task. For that, we have such words as immensity, vastness, hugeness, enormousness.

Enormity is an ethical, judgmental word meaning “great wickedness,” “a hideous crime.” The enormity of Jonestown doesn’t mean Jonestown was a huge place, but rather, the site of a hugely outrageous tragedy.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

8 responses to “Pleaded vs. Pled and Enormity Defined”

  1. Keith C Cannon says:

    Pled is singular, pleaded is plural. I pled guilty, we pleaded with him time and time again.

    • Pled can also be plural and pleaded can be singular. However, the AP Stylebook says that pled is colloquial and should not be used in formal English.
      Update: The 55th edition of the AP Stylebook (2020-2022), deleted guidance not to use pled.

      • David says:

        No, they pled guilty is correct. They pleaded guilty is not.

        • While you are looking for the resource to cite for your position, we’ll mention that our Confusing Words and Homonyms section says, “Traditionally, the past tense of plead is pleaded, not pled, and many sticklers reject pled. But it is gaining acceptance, and pled is listed as an alternative to pleaded in the fifth edition of Webster’s New World (2014).”

  2. Sue M. says:

    I have a question regarding the use of the term “utilizing” instead of using. Or she “utilized” instead of she used. (I do dictation and have one physician’s assistant who always uses the word utilized or utilizing and it seems he uses it inappropriately to me. I have started to notice people speaking this word on TV shows and news media. What is the protocol (I guess) for when to use (or should I say utilize) the word use versus utilize? Is it a regional preference?

    Another habit this PA-C has which drives me nuts: He will say she had a headache on last Saturday instead of just saying last Saturday. Or he will say she felt ill “on yesterday” instead of just she felt ill yesterday. I also wonder if that is a regional preference.

    And pray-tell I will never (although you told me it was correct) be able to handle the defendant pleaded guilty. ARGH that just grinds on my ears (as a former legal secretary and god knows the legal community butchers grammar) but I can’t stand that. The defendant PLED is all I can tolerate.

    • We doubt that utilize represents a regional preference. We noted in our article Stubborn Stinkaroos that George Orwell blew the whistle on this pretentious word in the 1940s. Unfortunately, it’s still in common use.

      Your physician’s assistant appears to have a habit of adding an unnecessary preposition.

      We prefer pleaded, but pled is gaining acceptance in some circles, so use it if you wish.

  3. Judy Logan says:

    I often hear some using the term “standing on line”, rather than “standing in line”. I believe it must have originated in the northern states. Does this phrase refer to sometime in history when there was a literal line upon which people stood (depression era food lines, etc.) for the purpose of progressing toward something. I’m not sure why, but this standing on line thing really annoys me.

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