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I Have Free Rein!

Everyday I receive an email from Oxford containing a grammar tip. The last one I shared was about flaunt v. flout. Today’s tip is about having free rein, (not reign) a mistake I make all the time.

Free rein

This is the correct spelling of the phrase — not “free reign.” The allusion is to horses, not to kings or queens. But some writers have apparently forgotten the allusion — e.g.:

“Indianapolis deserves to be a healthy and livable city, not just a place where developers enjoy free reign [read 'free rein'], routinely decimating our few remaining significant tree stands.” Letter of Clarke Kahlo, “The Public’s Interest in Tree Protection,” Indianapolis Star, 19 Jan. 1997, at B4.

“Holmgren was quoted in a New Orleans paper as saying his players have a fairly free reign [read 'free rein'] to enjoy New Orleans during their stay there. However, he did warn them about talking to ‘weird women.'” Danny Wells, “Backup Draws a Crowd: McMahon Still a Super Attraction,” Charleston Gaz., 23 Jan. 1997, at C1.

“Full rein” is a synonymous but less common expression.


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Recent Comments

  1. I Have Free Rein!

    [...] I Have Free Rein! [...]

  2. Saul Clipperberg

    Thanks for the tip, dahlin’.

  3. Brian Hadd

    Purple Reign is what happens when Prince grows up I think.

    The Hood Company

  4. [...] ‘freedom of action or expression.’ Our blog editor Becca Ford recently passed along the usage tip from Garner’s Modern American Usage, which advises that this is the correct form, not free [...]

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