The “Blond Or Blonde” And “Gray Or Grey” Debates

by | Jun 18, 2014 | Grammar and Usage, Other Helpful Information, The Writing Life | 6 comments

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Blonde Gray Debates

Is your main character a blond…or a blonde? Or that grandfatherly antagonist you just created—is his thinning hair iron gray or iron grey? Stop tearing your hair out trying to decide! We have the answers right here.

“Blond” vs “Blonde”

The word “blond” has its origins in French, where it has both masculine and feminine forms (blond and blonde, respectively). In English, the word follows these gender rules when used as a noun.

Example: Jim would definitely look better as a blond than as a brunet.

Example: The blonde across the street got into her car and went to the store.

For French and British writers, “blond” also remains gender specific when used as an adjective. Around the 1970s, however, it became standard practice in American English to default to “blond,” regardless of whether the person or object being described is masculine or feminine.

Example: The girl wore her blond hair in pigtails.

Example: The blond boy’s hair looked bleached in the summertime.

Example: She baked a blond sheet cake for her friend’s birthday.

Of course, it wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect to use “blonde” as a feminine adjective; our goal is to describe common usage. As with any other grammatical rule, the most important thing is to be consistent throughout your work, whichever adjective spelling you choose to use.

“Gray” vs “Grey”

Fortunately, the rule for using “gray” versus “grey” is more clear cut.

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Both spellings are correct, but in American English, “gray” is always spelled with an “a,” regardless of part of speech. “Grey” is the British spelling used throughout the United Kingdom.

Example: The heavy gray clouds threatened rain all afternoon.

Example: Her eyes were a light shade of gray.

Example: His hair has grayed over the decades.

It’s as simple as that!

We hope the examples and explanations provided here will help you fine-tune your writing style.

Still splitting hairs over grammar usage? Contact Writer’s Relief for more help.

Questions for WritersQUESTION: What words do you have trouble choosing the correct spelling for?

6 Comments

  1. Debora Buerk

    Voluntarism or volunteerism? That’s my question.

    Reply
  2. Sybil Biggs

    Oh, the irony of explaining about the gender spelling of blond/e while messing up the one for brunet/te.

    Reply
    • Writer's Relief Staff

      Good catch! We’ve updated the post.

      Reply
  3. Liz

    I know this post is ages old, but on the off-chance you’re still here to respond: any idea what us Canadians are supposed to do about the debate?

    Reply
    • Writer's Relief Staff

      That’s a good question, Liz. Our research indicates that it’s a hybrid. With regard to these type of words, we think it’s best to be consistent in whichever format rings true to you.

      Reply
  4. SM

    Thank you for finally putting me out of my misery, I’ve always wondered about this.

    Reply

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