Law Professors

Law Prof Enters the Great Debate: Is It ‘Pleaded’ or ‘Pled’?

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When a suspect has confessed guilt to the court, is it correct to say he “pleaded” guilty or “pled” guilty?

The AP Stylebook opts for “pleaded,” advising editors to avoid the colloquial word “pled.” But UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh did his own research, and he begs to differ.

Volokh checked the “all cases” database in Westlaw for the year 2010 and found the term “pled guilty” in 8,508 documents. The term “pleaded guilty” was less popular, showing up in 7,664 instances. “So both are fully standard,” he writes at the Volokh Conspiracy, “and I see no basis for labeling either ‘incorrect.’ ”

The post generated a debate and some criticism among the commenters, including one who opined: “It makes me sad, I think I’m going to try to irregularize some regular verbs to keep up the balance. I consider it a much ned response.”

Volokh defended himself in a later post. “Correctness is, in my view, defined by usage,” he writes.

Last updated 6:15 a.m. Nov. 23 to correct a typo in the spelling of Volokh’s name in the third paragraph.

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