Lead, Lead or Led?

Publish date:

Q: What's the difference between "lead" and "led"?—Jake S.

A: "Lead" has two specific meanings. As a noun, lead (pronounced like "bread") is a metallic element. It's labeled on the periodic table as "Pb" and sometimes found in really old paint. The U.S. government banned lead paint in 1978. Lead pencils aren't actually made out of lead; they are made out of graphite. (A grammar example and a science lesson all in one!) So whenever the word is used as a noun, it's always spelled l-e-a-d.

Used as a verb, "lead" (pronounced like greed) means "to guide or direct." I always try to lead my children by example. Brian A. Klems leads in the voting for Best-Looking Male Grammar Expert. While I can't confirm the validity of the second example statement, I can confirm that "lead" is used properly.

"Led" comes into play as the past tense of the verb "lead." Derek Jeter led the New York Yankees to a World Series victory. I led you to the correct answer of this grammatical conundrum. If you can substitute the words "guided" or "directed" into the sentence, your correct choice is "led."

Brian A. Klems is the online community editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Want more?

Poetic Forms

Sedoka: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the sedoka, a 6-line question and answer Japanese form.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.


Shook vs. Shaked vs. Shaken (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use shook vs. shaked vs. shaken on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.