The Proof of the Matter

Consider the following sentences:

• “Whey protein has been proven through scientific research to be very beneficial….”

• “Yet few of them understood the investments they held, many of which had proven to be junk.”

• “It’s not as if this exact rumor hasn’t been proven false time and time again….”

In each of the above examples, proven should be proved.

According to Bryan Garner in Garner’s Modern American UsageProved has long been the preferred past participle of prove. But proven often ill-advisedly appears….” He goes on to explain that proven “properly exists only as an adjective,” as in “a proven success.” An exception is traditional legal terminology, e.g., “innocent until proven guilty.”

• • •

Follow-up: In a recent column, I pointed out that the word antisocial implies hostility and aggressiveness, so someone who simply wants to be alone should be described as unsociable. “What about the word asocial?” a reader asked. “How should that be used?”

Here’s my answer: The prefix a- means not, and asocial can mean both unsociable and antisocial. Because of that ambiguity, I recommend that you avoid it. Choose unsociable or antisocial, depending on which meaning you want to convey.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

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Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.