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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


18 Comments

18 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”
    or
    “more importantly” I constantly hear “importantly” on t.v. ??? Thanks.

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style Q&A says this: …both forms are widely used by reputable writers, and there is no obvious reason for preferring one or the other.

  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.)

    • Jane says:

      You would do well to put your money on, “The fact is most important.” In this sentence, important is an adjective describing the noun fact. When beginning a sentence with “Most important/most importantly,” it is less clear what important/importantly refers to; therefore, either word is considered correct.

  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.
    or
    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.”

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