LawProse Lesson #234: Stricken from the record or struck from the record?

LawProse Lesson #234: Stricken from the record or struck from the record?

Like plead, the verb strike causes lawyers and judges to hesitate in forming the past participle: has the judge struck something from the record or stricken it from the record? English-language authorities have long said that the verb strike should be inflected strike > struck > struck, hence today I strike, yesterday I struck, many times I have struck. The alternative past participle, stricken, has long been considered nonstandard. A search using big data confirms that in books of all types published from 1700 to the present day, struck has always greatly outnumbered stricken. Today, struck predominates by a 12-to-1 ratio. (Of course, stricken is fine as an adjective <a stricken community> <stricken with grief>.) But in legal writing, the nonstandard form stricken is common. A Westlaw search in the “allcases” database shows that stricken from the record has predominated in the last ten years by a 7-to-1 ratio. Given stricken‘s frequency of use in legal writing, some lawyers may conclude that they should continue to use the term. Others will prefer to stick with struck—the more correct past participle. Whatever you do, avoid the solecism strickened, which is a double error occasionally attested from the early 19th century on. Irregular verbs are perennially troublesome to writers. Do you know how to inflect these: bid; drink; sling; slink; stink? The English language has more than 200 such verbs, and they can be tricky. For a full listing with inflections, see Garner’s Modern American Usage 481–82 (3d ed. 2009). You may be surprised to learn that you should strike more than stricken from your vocabulary.

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