Led vs. Lead

Sheenah Archive, Writing Advice 3 Comments

Lead -- periodic table

This is lead. Don't confuse it with led.

I’ve really been looking forward to L so I can rant explain the difference between led versus lead. To my horror it seems to have become more and more mainstream to use the word “lead” in place of “led”. Every time I see a news article with this horrible, horrible mistake, I want to take said article and slap the editor with it. I mean, seriously? Most of these editors have bachelor’s degrees (supposedly) and they continue to miss this? Or have editors become so lazy that they no longer care about the English language and deem that the majority of Americans don’t care either? News flash! Use proper grammar and spelling and people will learn how to use the language correctly because they see it being used correctly!

Fact: I started reading the newspaper diligently while working on my first book, The Chosen, and subconsciously wrote “lead” instead of “led”. Why? Because I saw it everywhere. I knew it was wrong but I still had to triple check that “led” was indeed a word because I barely see it used anymore.

According to Fowler’s Modern English Usage, the rule pertaining to lead, led is as follows:

The verb meaning “to go in front” is, of course, pronounced /li:d/ and its past tense is led, pronounced /led/. Incorrect use: His idea was the one that lead to the solution of the mascara mysteryChicago Sun-Times, 1990. The chemical element lead, pronounced /led/, is of quite separate origin; the associated verb and its parts (leaded, leaden, etc.) all have /led/ as their first syllable.

And there you have it. Unless you’re talking about the element or you’re writing in the present tense, don’t use lead. If I see you make this mistake, I’ll sic Fowler on you and trust me, it won’t be pretty.

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  1. You know, I didn’t even realize this was so prevalent until I saw the incorrect example in your quote and it actually looked correct. That was a little bit horrifying, since I know the correct usage is ‘led’ so it means the media has warped me into thinking ‘lead’ looks acceptable.

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