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Lying Down on the Job

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It’s a crime that many authors commit, leaving literal literary (say that three times fast!) bodies in its wake. What is this violent verbiage you ask? Confusing prone with supine and vice versa.

There are as many ways to describe how a person may lay as there are surfaces on which to lay said person. However, popular among these choices are the adjectives prone and supine, and a number of writer’s use these terms interchangeably. Yet, interchangeable they are not.

The dictionary defines prone as the following:


Prone adjective \ˈprōn \

1. likely to or liable to suffer from, do, or experience something, typically something regrettable or unwelcome.

"years of logging had left the mountains prone to mudslides"

2. lying flat, especially face downward.

"I was lying prone on a foam mattress"


denoting the position of the forearm with the palm of the hand facing downward


with a downward slope or direction


Our interest is in the second definition – lying flat, especially face downward

The dictionary defines supine as the following:


Supine adjective \ˈso͞oˌpīn \

1. (of a person) lying face upward.

"she lay supine on the sand"


having the front or ventral part upward, (of the hand) with the palm upward


So, the two are clearly not the same. Prone and supine are literally two sides of the same coin… well, the same body. Just remember, supine lays on the spine.

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