The Principal Principle

Here are two more words writers often confuse: principal and principle. Principal means first in author­ity. Or a main par­tic­i­pant, or amount of a debt minus the inter­est. It can be a noun or an adjective. Principle means a basic truth or assump­tion. A lot of peo­ple think of prin­ci­ples in rela­tion to ethics, rules, stan­dards, morals, guide­lines, etc. It’s a noun, whereas prin­ci­pal is a noun or an adjective.

If you have a lot of rules, you would have a lot of principles. If you have a weird school with more than one person in charge, you may have a number of principals. Some ballet companies have featured dancers or principals. And some principals are lacking in principles.

If you need something to help you remember when to use which spelling, think of the pal at the end of principal. The prinicipal at your school should be your pal, and not be a pill, which is what the last syllable of principle sounds like (to me). Principles can feel like bitter pills. Okay, I know that’s pretty dumb, but it kinda sticks, doesn’t it?

One Response to “The Principal Principle”

  1. Tim Lane August 9, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Principle can be principled by adding a ‘d’. Principal cannot. To get a principled principal you need a big wooden ruler and not be afraid to use it.

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