Posted by: Jack Henry | April 26, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Principal and Principle

Many writers confuse the words principal and principle.

I think the problem begins in elementary school, when students learn the mnemonic, "The principal is your pal." (A mnemonic is a saying that helps you remember something.)

This mnemonic helps students refer to the school principal, but it can lead to one of two wrong conclusions:

· Principal is always the correct word. Principle is just a misspelling.

· Principal refers only to a school principal. In all other cases, the correct word is principle.

After students graduate, they stop thinking about school principals and start thinking about loan principals, political principles, principal causes, and principled stands. Fortunately, there is another mnemonic that helps you determine the right word in every situation:

· Principal has an a in it, like the word main.

· Principle ends in -le, like the word rule.

When in doubt, replace principal or principle with main or rule, and see which makes the most sense:

· Smoking is a principal/principle cause of high blood pressure.
Smoking is a main cause of high blood pressure, so the correct word is principal.

· The United States was founded on the principal/principle that all men are created equal.
"All men are created equal" is a rule, so the correct word is principle.

Sometimes, you can’t just replace the word; you have to think about its meaning:

· My cousin is slowly paying off his loan principal/principle.
My cousin is paying off the main part of the loan, so the correct word is principal.

· The senator took a principaled/principled stand against corruption.
The senator’s stand was based on the rules of her moral code, so the correct word is principled.

· I met with the school principal/principle.
I met with the main person in charge of the school, so the correct word is principal.

Your pal,

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

Symitar Documentation Services

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