Most sources say that the correct past tense is pleaded. Squiggly pleaded guilty. That dirty rotten scoundrel.
Garner’s Modern American Usage, the AP Stylebook, and the Chicago Manual of Style all say to use pleaded. You should also use pleaded as the participle, as in Squiggly has pleaded guilty.
Some people do prefer pled, and the AP Stylebook calls it a colloquial past-tense form. Nevertheless, most lawyers use pleaded. For example, in a 2013 ABA Journal post, a senior litigation associate named Brian Boone reported doing a Westlaw search and finding that “the U.S. Supreme court has used pleaded in more than 3,000 opinions and pled in only 26.”
Your Quick and Dirty Tip is to stay out of trouble so you never have to make a choice, but if you must, tell people you pleaded innocent or guilty.
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