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.]

Comment on this article