The Controversy Between Shined and Shone

Writing TipThe English language is always evolving. Just when I feel I’m confident in a rule or spelling, something pops up to make me question my sanity—I mean my writing.

Two scenarios—when discovered—that cause me confusion with rules

  1. An old rule I didn’t know about because I had been originally taught the new rule (one developed in the past few decades).
  2. A new rule brought in by popular demand I didn’t know about because I used the old rule.

In the case of shined vs shone, I was using a rule that was relatively new. I didn’t know another existed. But it does and in some circles, it is still used.

In many instances, these sentences are equally correct.

  • The sun shined on the water.
  • I shined the flashlight on the sleeping dragon.
  • The boys shined shoes at the corner.

However, only one of them is correct if you follow the old rule.

The verb to shine has two meanings:

  • to emit light
  • to cause to gleam by polish

The past tense of the first meaning is shone.

The past tense of the second meaning is shined.

Those first two sentences should be written…

  • The sun shone on the water.
  • I shone the flashlight on the sleeping dragon.

shone vs shinedHowever—this is where it gets tricky—North America is angling towards shined in both these instances. The Internet is spreading this new use of the word across the world, so if you google “he shined a light” you get positive hits as if this is the rule.

There’s also a rumour out there that states shone is used in formal writing only and sounds a little pompous. This rumour will aid in the demise of shone.

The other reason shined may be winning the battle is it is becoming a trend that two rules for one word is too difficult to remember. This is why practice (noun) and practise (verb) have become only practice in both instances in many circles. Licence (noun) and license (verb) has gone that way too. I suspect effect and affect will one day succumb to this trend because people are tired of struggling over which one to choose.

Searching my 150,000-word Scattered Stones manuscript for shone and shined, I found shone once and shined eight times.

Shined

  • The moonlight shined down on Bronwyn’s face as he peered from the slit beneath the outer defence wall.
  • The night had passed quietly, and the sun shined on their modest encampment.
  • The light shined directly into the protective alcove, and he kept his eyes closed against its brightness.
  • The sun cut through the cloud and shined upon the last few workers who tidied up.
  • Finally, his head emerged and the afternoon sun shined down upon him, blinding him temporarily.
  • A dim light shined from within.
  • On their approach, he spotted a tall woman with long black hair that shined like satin.
  • Bright sunlight shined upon it.

Shone

  • The bright palette sparkled and shone down upon them.

I have been using the ‘modern’ day use of shined in all but once instance.

Now I am left with the dilemma of either switching shined to shone or the lone shone to shined. Consistency—in this case—is more important than which rule to follow.

The questions are…

  • Do more readers think shined is correct or shone in these sentences?
  • What does the future hold for these words?
  • Will using shone date my books when the word falls out of favour?

For my fantasy novels, the answer is simple: shone will be used. I often harvest archaic words to use in my world of Ath-o’Lea, so one more won’t make a difference.

If you want a thorough definition of to shine and the uses of its tenses, visit the Motivated Grammar blog.

What about you? Do you write “The sun shined on the basking sea dragon.” or “The sun shone on the basking sea dragon.”

PS: Did you know the archaic meaning for wife was a woman, especially an old or uneducated one?

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20 thoughts on “The Controversy Between Shined and Shone

  1. Such an interesting post Di. I would probably leave everything ‘shined’ for consistency because it goes with everything, and ‘shone’ doesn’t.
    Now I’ll admit to being bad at license and licence, so I keep it at licence and practice. But affect and effect are two completely different words. If we combine them will that start opening up other silliness like then and than?

  2. The English language never ceases to amaze! I look things up constantly to make sure I’m on top of the latest. And don’t get me started about the urban meanings! Thank you for the enlightenment, much appreciated.

  3. I prefer ‘shone’ but then I’m fighting (and losing, but kicking and screaming all the way) a rearguard action with my writing and having to use americanised spelling.

  4. Okay, thanks Diane, you have shed (shone) light on something which has been puzzling me for the last year or so.
    When I buy books from US writers, I have noticed how often the word ‘shined’ is used as the past tense on ‘shine’.
    To me it grates to the extent that I have considered abandoning the book. The word sounds uneducated and low-brow (not that I am high-brow by any means, but I like to see words used correctly and not in a lazy manner.
    Now I know that ‘shined’ is becoming popular usage, I will be more tolerant of its use. However I’m sure I will still shudder whenever I come across it.
    To me, the sun shone brightly!

    • Thank you for visiting and for leaving a comment, Linda.

      The more books that include ‘shined’, the more writers who will think it is correct, so more books will be written with it. It’s a vicious cycle.

      But we can’t hold back evolution; it will happen. But we don’t have to let it happen in our books.

  5. I didn’t know there was a controversy, Diane, or at least, a word migration. I tend to use “shone” (unless polishing, i.e. “shined his shoes”). I think I prefer it because of the sound – if that makes sense. “Shined” is a harder word to say so it doesn’t flow as well in a sentence. I have a sensitivity to word sounds and tend to choose words for sound secondary to meaning. Thanks for the info. Interesting.

  6. I use shone, but a critiquer marked it as wrong recently in the book I’m revising. I didn’t even check to see if he could be right; I was sure he was wrong. I think I will stick with shone, but at least I’m aware there’s shifting usage. Thanks for this.

    • As time passes, more critiquers and editors will ‘correct’ it to ‘shined’, but we don’t have to follow them.

      Being aware of these difference allows us to have more control over our work.

      Thank you for visiting, Ann. And thanks for leaving a comment.

  7. I would always use ‘the sun shone down’. That’s what I was taught to use umpteen years ago and I really don’t like the sound of ‘the sun shined down’. It will take me some time to get used to the latter if it does becomes the norm.
    Interesting and thought-provoking post, Diane. In the UK we still use practise, license and advise as the verb form, but I can see your point with words such as these. Many people do use them incorrectly and having the same word for both noun and verb would make things easier.

    • Millie, many of us in Canada still use practise, license and advise. With the government of Canada still using licence as the noun and license as the verb, it won’t change any time soon.

      I do, however, see more individuals slipping into American spelling, and I blame that on the Internet and word processing programs (MS Word) that tell us we are wrong when we use our Canadian spelling.

      Unless we actively care about maintaining our unique spelling, it will disappear, and the average person doesn’t care. I see it every day.

      Thank you for visiting, Millie.

      • Yes, I fully agree with what you say, Diane. I also agree that language is constantly evolving, so it probably doesn’t do to be a stick in the mud, like me. 🙂 I love the old-style spellings of many words, but know many will eventually change. 🙂

        • I am a stick in the mud too for many words. Some readers will enjoy it and some will not. I live with the philosophy I can’t please everyone, so I’ll please myself. I write the books I want to read in the language I want to read them. It is what drives me. If I wrote for others, I might not be so eager to finish the story.

  8. Shone just sounds better to me in all instances. I have recently had an issue with grey and gray. I have always used grey. I know both are correct but after doing some research, I found that British English prefers grey whereas American English prefers gray. I was asked to change it to gray. Since I use British English in my books, I have decided to stick with grey. Which do you prefer?

    • I have always used grey. I ran into issues when I started using word processing software (WordPerfect, MS Word). It said I was wrong, and the word was gray. After a little research, I learned gray was the American spelling.

      I ran into this issue with a lot of words, and I started to believe I was a horrible speller. Dreamt, spilt, smelt, plough, doughnut, harbour…and the list goes on. Then I stumbled onto the fact these programs were written to suit Americans writers.

      Now, if a word is flagged, I look it up to see which spelling is correct for me as a Canadian. If I’m right, I go into the Options and change the spelling, so I’m not faced with constant false alarms. Personally, I’m attached to my heritage and want to maintain it. And to be honest, color and harbor scream wrong. They are ugly words.

      Thanks for visiting, Darlene, and for leaving a comment.

  9. I would never used “The sun shined.” To me it is awkward and uneducated. Call me a snob if you like. I also have “bored of” when it ought to be “bored with”. Maybe I’m just getting old and cranky. but to me both are just plain wrong.

    • I think many of us listen for awkwardness to know if we are using words right or not. The pattern must fit with what’s in our brain. I have used “The sun shined” for as long as I can remember, so it doesn’t sound awkward to me.

      Our lovely English language is always changing, and it seems ‘shined’ will become the norm. As writers, we get to choose which one we use.

      Thank you for visiting, Yvonne, and for leaving a comment.

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