Writing for Business

Aug 21 2012   2:11PM GMT

Sneaked or snuck?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
I’m cleaning up my Facebook account, unfriending people I don’t know and the ones I wish I didn’t know that have somehow ______ in.
a. snuck
b. sneaked

Answer: For formal writing, you want b.


According to Merriam-Webster, snuck arose in the late 1800s in America and has, at least in the US, become as acceptable as sneaked. Opinions differ, however. AP style calls for sneaked, which is the original and standard past and past participle form for the verb sneak.

I’m Canadian, which may explain why I was surprised to find that some other people were surprised to see sneaked used instead of snuck. Danny Sullivan wrote about his investigation:

Driving back from the airport this weekend after our vacation, I put on an audio CD for the kids, one of the Horrid Henry stories. In part of the story, he was said to have “sneaked” into a room. Sneaked? Surely he “snuck” into the room, I thought. But then I lost confidence. Have I been saying “snuck” all these years by mistake?

To reassure myself, I quickly tried to think of other irregular verbs ending in -eak where I would do this. I couldn’t think of any. Instead, I thought of examples where I don’t do this. For example, I wouldn’t say:

  • cruck rather than creaked
  • fruck rather than freaked
  • wruck rather than wreaked

It’s a really interesting post. Sullivan researches various authorities and also provides a handy refresher on past verb tenses.

That said, snuck sounds jocular and/or rural to me. The verb form it brings to my mind is drug, as the past form of drag, as in I drug myself out of bed and logged into Facebook. As far as I know, drug remains non-standard. But stay tuned…

In the meantime, let’s see if we can’t get fruck going as a past form for freaked. Here’s my contribution: I nearly fruck out when I saw Merriam-Webster said snuck was as acceptable as sneaked.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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