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.

Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010, at 12:22 pm

24 Comments on Pleaded vs. Pled and Enormity Defined

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

  1. Donna Rice says:

    I cannot find rules for the following:

    Is it proper to say Texas weather vs Texas’ weather? Can you say teacher perceptions vs teachers’ perceptions?

    Where does anthropomorphism end? You cannot say the study thinks but can you say the study analyzes?

    Where are the rules regarding these grammar questions?

  2. Jane says:

    “Yes” to all your questions. These words can be used as adjectives (without apostrophes) or as possessive pronouns (with apostrophes).
    You are right about the extent of anthropomorphism (the attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena). A study cannot think but it’s reasonable to say that a study analyzes. I don’t think you will find rigid rules about this because it is a “common sense” decision.

  3. james dean says:

    which is correct?
    “more important”
    “more importantly” I constantly hear “importantly” on t.v. ??? Thanks.

    • Jane says:

      We prefer and recommend more important, an elliptical phrase meaning “What is more important is the fact that …”

      • Bryon Wittstock, Cape Town, South Africa says:

        Why, in American usage, has the word ‘take’ and ‘taken’ been replaced by ‘bring’ or ‘brought’? This would imply that medicine must be ‘brought’ not ‘taken’. Have the words take and taken become offensive or too agressive in modern American Political Correctness? So too ‘Gotten’. Since when is a word made into a past tense when, in fact, it has no tense

  4. james dean says:

    Thank you very much. However, I would have put my money on “most important”. I helps me to insert into a sentence, such as “The fact is most important.” To me, it’s the place for the adjetive.
    Wow, getting the respose is really something. As you might have noticed, I’m not great on where to put the period in relation to the quotation mark. :-) (As they would say on facebook.)

  5. Seth Florentino says:

    “That is between Maxene and I.” What is wrong with this sentence?

    • Jane says:

      The word “between” is a preposition requiring an object of the preposition (objective case) following it. “Me” is the objective case pronoun, not “I.”

  6. james dean says:

    Which is correct–
    I feel badly about the incident.
    I feel bad about the incident.

    • Jane says:

      “I feel bad about the incident.” With sense verbs, ask if the sense is being used actively. In this example, feel is not being used actively because no one is feeling with fingers. Therefore, an adjective follows, not an adverb.

  7. Reginald Lawrence says:

    If a painter paints, and a baker bakes, logically, what does a carpenter do?

  8. Larina says:

    Donn Rice: It would actually be Texas’s. Singular possessive. For real. Texas’ would be a plural possessive of people named Texa.

  9. John says:

    Jane: saying “..this exact example…” is very poor grammer, and very commonly used. The correct wording is “..exactly this example…”. I am appalled at the prevalent use of the term ” the exact same thing” which we hear every day. The correct English wording is ” exactly the same thing”.

    • Jane says:

      I stand by my original use of the word “exact” because it is an adjective. It modifies the noun “example.” The word “exactly” is an adverb, and it would not seem to fit as well in this case. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary cites the following similar uses for “exact” used as an adjective:

      Those were his exact words.
      We don’t know the exact nature of the problem.
      The police have an exact description of the killer.

  10. Sandra says:

    Thank you John for the protest in your note on “the exact same thing” as ungrammatical. One now hears this phrase everywhere, instead of “exactly the same thing,” and maybe it’s a hill not worth dying on, but it grates every time I hear it. Soon we will be saying something is “the true same thing” or ” the real same thing,” etc. Even Grammar Girl alternates between using “the exact same” and “exactly the same.”

    • Jane says:

      Since the grammar tip in our recent newsletter (December 11, 2012) included Rule 4 of Commas, “Use commas before or surrounding the name or title of a person directly addressed,” I will mention that the first sentence should have been written as “Thank you, John, for the protest in your note on “the exact same thing” as ungrammatical.”

  11. Keith C Cannon says:

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

  12. 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.

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