It’s pleaded, not pled

With so many high government officials getting charged with crimes these days, the past tense of the verb “to plead” has seen a lot of use in news stories.

It’s an important verb in news writing in general because people are prone to misbehave – as all reporters know – and wind up pleading to this and that all the time.

So when we have to write about what a person did before a judge, I’m pleading with you, please say, “Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI.”

“Pled” is not really wrong, according to the dictionary, and for reasons unfathomable, so is “plead,” the same spelling as the present tense only pronounced differently.

It makes me think the good folks at Webster’s New College Dictionary and Mirriam Webster one day after a few sherries threw up their hands and said, “Damn these people, they won’t do right. Just spell it any way you want to, you dullards!”

AP Style stipulates “pleaded,” and there a lot of good reasons for that, if you need any.

It’s pretty much impossible to misunderstand or mispronounce if you are reading for broadcast.  Adding “ed” to verbs to make the past tense is the most common way to do that in English, so it’s easy for harried writers to remember, once they have it pounded into them by hard-ass old copy editors who keep blue-lining “pled” and “plead” in their copy.

If you want to argue, this is not the place. I will not hear you. Nor will the few well-trained, competent copy editors who still have jobs in the swiftly declining journalism business.

Do the right thing. Be a pro. Now shut up and go back to work.