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Lead/Led: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Check this category every week for a new set of ceaselessly confused, misused or misspelled words to master. Break the cycle of language abuse!

Lead, Led, Lead

This one makes me itch. The sooner we all get this right, the better!

Lead and led are pronounced the same but are very different words. When you spell it “lead,” you mean the element—the one that is really heavy, the one that’s in the apron dentists lay over us when they x ray our teeth, the one that’s used in those overshoes that you would only be caught dead wearing. When you think “lead” with the extra letter, think extra weight.

“After two days with no sleep, his eyelids felt like lead and finally slammed shut all on their own.”

When you spell it “led,” you mean the past tense of the other “lead,” the one pronounced “l-e-e-d,” and used to point out who’s at the head of the pack.

     “The leader took the lead and led the way.”

Here’s a chance to practice. Fill in each blank with LEAD (pronounced “led”), LEAD (pronounce “l-e-e-d”) or LED (pronounced—well, you know.)

When it was my turn to _____the discussion, I decided to talk about how the _____ in our pencils is graphite and not _____ at all. I thought this was fascinating but, as it turns out, I _____ my audience down a rabbit hole of boredom. After an hour, all this talk of fake _____  _____ to a mutiny _____ by the last person I’d have expected. It was our teacher who stifled a yawn, took the _____ and curtailed my talk. Well, I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I’ll talk about lists and lists of constantly misused homophones. That should wow ‘em!  (Answers next time.)

(Answers to the Previous Lesson–Fewer/Less: She’s having fewer headaches these days thanks to her new job. Of course, she also has less responsibility and makes less money. She works fewer hours and enjoys having more time to do other things, but has discovered that having less money means she can do fewer things. It also means that can have fewer clothes, less happiness, fewer trips, less worldliness, fewer snacks, less satisfaction, less fun and fewer manicures. Oh dear. Looks like she might have a headache coming on.)