Lead Test

Take a look at this passage:

There were many factors that precipitated the American Revolution. Colonists had grown tired of living under oppressive British rule. But without a doubt, the rallying cry of “no taxation without representation” is remembered as the most important sentiment that lead to the rebellion and, ultimately, the Declaration of Independence.

There’s an error in there. I didn’t want to say so before you read that because it’s the type of error that’s easy to spot if you're looking for one. But this mistake is very easy to overlook if your brain isn’t in typo-hunt mode.

The error is “lead.” It should be “led.”

This is one of the most common mistakes I see. No one’s immune. Even people who know that the past tense of the verb lead (which rhymes with weed) is led (which rhymes with bed). The problem is that there’s another word, lead, which rhymes with led. It’s a metal (not to be confused with medal).

So anyone, it seems, can write, “the most important sentiment that led to the rebellion” instead of “lead to the rebellion.” And editors and proofreaders who aren’t consciously looking for this error can let it slip right past them, too.

The only way to avoid this error is to pay special attention to every instance of “lead.” If it’s being used as a verb and it’s supposed to be in the past tense, it should be spelled “led.”  Another way to look at it: if it’s a verb that rhymes with bed, again: it’s led, not lead.

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