Principal and principle - Mixed messages and misused words from A to Z
Principalities may not fall over the misuse of principal and principle, but pretty good writers may predict which word to choose.
Principal, used as an adjective or a noun, refers to a high level of importance or influence. That’s why the head of a school may be titled the principal. He or she may be the prince or princess of the school, if one counts the superintendent as king. Well, that may be stretching the principles of royal title usage a bit.
Principle, which also may be used as either noun or adjective, points to rules, standards, or shared beliefs.
Consider how principal and principle may be used in this example.
Rebuking the spitball-tossing student, the principal said, “It’s the principle of the thing. Spitballs are principally prohibited by the PTA.”
(Careful readers will note how the adverbial form of principle looks a lot more like principal. If you are confused, stop in at your local school, and ask the principal how this principle applies.)
Misused word pair
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Abused and misused word graphics
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