Posted by: Jack Henry | January 10, 2023

Editor’s Corner: Plead, Pleaded, and Plead

Hey girlfriend,

This always stumps me when I read it in an article about someone pleading during a trial. The words “pled” and “pleaded.” Seems as if the writers always use the word “pleaded” when I think it sounds better to say “pled.” Can you help an old guy out?

Hello, my friend from the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

I’ve always found this set of words troublesome myself. Pleaded seems so clunky. We have lead/led, feed/fed, read/read, need/Ned…oh never-mind, I’m not getting anywhere with that argument. Let’s just say plead, pled, and pleaded are one of those crazy exceptions that make English the interesting language that it is.

First, a few details. From my buddies at Merriam-Webster, here’s their definition. Note that they offer both pleaded and pled as the correct past tense.


plead·ed or pled ˈpled

; pleaded or pled; plead·ing; pleads

intransitive verb

1: to make a plea or conduct pleadings in a cause or proceeding in a court : present an answer or pleading in defense or prosecution of an action

2: to argue for or against a claim : urge reasons for or against a thing : entreat or appeal earnestly : beg, implore

Second, the form of the word that you use depends on where it is used. Media likes to use pleaded rather than pled, so that’s what you’ll hear on the daily news or read in your favorite crime blotter. I was surprised to read in that “in the legal community, which seems to be very invested in the debate [KC – Of
pleaded vs. pled] due to the frequent use of the verb plead in legal terminology, both terms are used more or less equally.”

Third, those who follow the Associated Press Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style also prefer the longer form, so if you’re reading material from writers who use those guides, they’ll be saying that someone pleaded innocent.

Last, but not least, the use of pleaded over pled depends on where a person lives. Those in England, Australia, Wales, and Ireland like pleaded. Despite the prominence of pleaded in the American media and style guides, North Americans and the Scottish like pled.

Here are some additional words of wisdom from the folks at

…the bottom line is that pleaded is the commonly recognized past tense of plead, and pled is the form that can sometimes be used instead of it, especially within the North American and Scottish legal systems. If you have to follow a certain style guide, you work in the media, or you simply want to lay the issue to rest, you’d be better served by using pleaded.

Since I don’t mind arguing, personally I’m going with pled. I can already see the argument with my dad coming to fruition.

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams |

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