Word Confusion: Precede versus Proceed

Posted December 3, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 4 October 2017

I find myself pausing every time before I type out precede or proceed just to make sure I’m using the right word. My trick is that pre-. It’s easy enough as it means before, so obviously if I want to come before anything, I definitely want to precede it. Pro-, and don’t ask me why, always feels like a positive, that I’m going forward with something. It works, since proceed is exactly that, continuing on, moving forward.

So my suggestion for writers, is to proceed with your ambitions, but precede them with a good proofreading before you publish!

Word Confusions started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Precede Proceed
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: precede; Merriam-Webster: precede and proceed

Scanned image of a preface page

“Samuel Johnson’s Preface”, 1709-1784, is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

This particular preface precedes Shakespeare’s plays.

Traffic light shows a green light

“Traffic Light Green” is TheGoTeam’s own work and is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Green indicates that you can proceed.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: precedes
Past tense or past participle: preceded
Gerund or present participle: preceding

Verb, intransitive

Third person present verb: proceeds
Past tense or past participle: proceeded
Gerund or present participle: proceeding

[Journalism] Copy printed at the beginning of a news story presenting late bulletins, editorial notes, or prefatory remarks

Verb, intransitive:
To go or be before in time, order, or position

To come before in time, order, or position

Verb, transitive:
To go before

To come ahead

To be in front of

To be earlier than

To surpass in dignity, rank, or importance

To come before something in time

  • Come before in order or position
  • Go in front or ahead of
  • Cause to be preceded
  • Preface or introduce something with
To come forth from a source

To continue after a pause or interruption

  • To go on in an orderly regulated way

To begin and carry on an action, process, or movement

  • To be in the process of being accomplished
  • Move forward, especially after reaching a certain point
  • Do something as a natural or seemingly inevitable next step
  • [Law] Start a lawsuit against someone
  • [Of an action] Be started
  • [Of an action] be carried on or continued
  • Originate from

To move along a course

It’s too late to change the article, go ahead and do a precede.

Verb, intransitive:
The mayor was preceded by his bodyguard.

Breakfast was preceded by some leisurely morning sex.

Verb, transitive:
It was too obvious that a gun battle had preceded the explosions.

Take time to read the chapters that precede the recipes, you’ll see what I mean.

He let her precede him through the gate.

As you’ll note from the preceding pages, the formula was transposed here and again in this paragraph.

He preceded the book with a collection of poems.

Strange sounds proceeded from the room.

I think the work is proceeding well.

The parade proceeded at a stiff march down the street.

We can proceed with our investigation.

The ship could proceed to Milwaukee.

Opposite the front door was a staircase, which I proceeded to climb.

He may still be able to proceed against the contractor under the common law negligence rules.

Negotiations must proceed without delay.

As the excavation proceeds, the visible layers can be recorded and studied.

His claim that all power proceeded from God was ridiculous.

Adjective: preceding Adjective: procedural
Adverb: procedurally
Noun: procedural, procedure, proceeds, procession
History of the Word:
First known use: 15th century

Late Middle English from the Old French preceder, from the Latin praecedere, which is from prae (before) + cedere (go).

First known use: 14th century

Late Middle English: from Old French proceder, from Latin procedere, from pro- (forward) + cedere (go).

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

The Papal Procession Approaches the Altar is courtesy of the The Saint Bede Media Blog.