Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Get It Right: Principle And Principal

It's time to put our "grammar police" hat on once more so we can help combat the frequent misuse of the words principle and principal. Sure, they look alike and sound exactly the same, but that doesn't mean you can use them interchangeably! Don't worry though, we're about to give you all the information you need to set yourself straight and never make these errors again.

Eddie South, an American jazz violinist in the early 1900s.
Principal

This word can be both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, the word principal is most often used in reference to someone in a leadership position, especially a school principal ("headteacher" in the UK), who is the most senior official in a school. However, it could also refer to the "star" or leading performer in a play, among many other uses.

As an adjective, principal means "most important" or "influential". An orchestra's principal violinist is the person who plays the violin the best. The principal ingredient in potato salad would of course be potatoes, without which the dish would be, well, disgusting.

Principle

principle is a noun that refers to a fundamental law, doctrine, rule, or code of conduct. Moral principles define what is morally right or wrong in society, though they can vary from person to person. If you were paying attention in school, you probably also learned about many different scientific principles, such as Archimedes' principle. Basically, it's a rule or law that usually is or has to be followed.