Writing for Business

Feb 17 2010   3:19PM GMT

Free rein or free reign?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The advance warning of restrictions gave credit card companies __________ to find new ways to gouge consumers.
a. free rein
b. free reign

Answer: a

Free rein is the freedom you’d give a horse you were riding by loosening your grasp on the reins.

The confusion between these terms is understandable because free reign would mean to rule over something without restriction. However, the original term is free rein.

Here’s a Google snapshot:

free rein: 834,000 hits
free reign: 529,000 hits

Free rein is still the clear winner. (And, anyway, we’re not going to let the Internet dictate spelling. So get this one right!)

Free reign is in the Eggcorn database. They also mention less ambiguous errors, such as “reigns of power” and “reign in.”

Darryl Isherwood reports that the Credit CARD Act may be responsible for rising card fees.

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