Grammar

The Grammar Error About Where Speakers Speak

Since we’re knee-deep in convention coverage, it’s worth mentioning that a common mistake is, well, common in reporting.

Watch for it — it’s usually easy to spot — any time someone is about to make a big speech. It occurs around the time some would say the speaker is “stepping up to the podium.”

A podium is the raised platform on which a speaker stands.

If you see people talking about someone speaking from behind a podium, then you know you’re hearing from a reporter who’s making the mistake.

A lectern is the stand behind which someone speaks. The lectern is placed on the podium.

It’s a grammar gaffe that is easy to make because so many people get the two confused. Before anyone begins complaining with their dictionaries open, I’ll address the obvious complaint: one of the definitions of a podium is the stand behind which a speaker is located when giving a speech.

But remember: a dictionary’s job is to define how words are being used, not to advocate that particular usage. That’s why the non-word irregardless is in the dictionary: it lets people know that whoever said it really meant to say regardless.

The easy way to remember is to think about a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in treating foot ailments. The origin of the word lectern refers to reading and is related to lecturing. You read from the often-slanted surface of the lectern.

So don’t allow yourself to forget this grammar rule: You stand on the podium. When standing on a podium, you stand behind a lectern.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.