Skip to main content

Principal vs. Principle (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use principal vs. principle on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

While I try to help out with grammar in these weekly Grammar Rules posts, I don't think of myself as part of the grammar police. However, everyone has their pet peeves, and one of mine is related to the misuse of principal and principle. One could be the top position at a school; the other could be related to a person moral code.

(Grammar rules for writers.)

So let's look at when to use principal and principle for these instances and others.

Principal vs. Principle (Grammar Rules)

Principal vs. Principle

Principal can be used as a noun or adjective. As an adjective, it means that someone or something is the most important or influential. As a noun, it's used a few ways. The first one is to describe a person who is in charge or who has responsibility over others. It can also mean a person who commits a crime. A few other meanings are used in matters of finance and construction.

(5 Moral Dilemmas That Make Characters and Stories Better.)

Principle, on the other hand, is a noun that often relates to a law or moral code and/or a person who upholds those laws or moral code. Principle can also refer to the primary source of something (like Sigmund Freud's pleasure principle mentioned in the following song by Janet Jackson).

Make sense?

Here are a couple examples:

Correct: She is the principal of the high school.
Incorrect: She is the principle of the high school.

Correct: He really lacks the principles to be trusted.
Incorrect: He really lacks the principals to be trusted.

While principal can be used as an adjective and noun, principle can only be used as a noun (though principled can be used as an adjective). Also, principal can refer to a person, while principle can only refer to something a person has. 

So here's how I keep them straight: I use the "pal" in "principal" to remember it can refer to the leader of a school or organization, while the other one refers to ideals such a person may have.

*****

Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 629

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an avoidance poem.

What Are Submission Guidelines in Writing?

What Are Submission Guidelines in Writing?

In this post, we answer the question of what are submission guidelines in writing, and we look at how writers can take advantage of them to find more success getting published.

3 Tips for Crafting a Character That Can Carry a Series

3 Tips for Crafting a Character That Can Carry a Series

From planting characteristics early on to understanding the expectations of your genre, author Mia P. Manansala shares 3 tips for crafting a character that can carry a series.

Quite the Reward

Quite the Reward

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character rescues a creature that turns out to be a powerful being.

Rita Zoey Chin: On the Way Storytelling Can Shape Lives

Rita Zoey Chin: On the Way Storytelling Can Shape Lives

Author Rita Zoey Chin discusses the process of writing her new novel, The Strange Inheritance of Leah Fern.

Chess Life: Market Spotlight

Chess Life: Market Spotlight

For this week's market spotlight, we look at Chess Life, the official publication of the United States Chess Federation.

The Art and Craft of Pre-Writing

The Art and Craft of Pre-Writing

What do you do when pantsing leads to false starts but plotting feels less organic? Author Christine Wells shares what she calls the art and craft of pre-writing, and a step-by-step system to help you succeed.

From Script

Learning About Your Characters Through Action (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an exclusive interview with Raamla Mohamed, the creator, writer, and EP behind Hulu’s “Reasonable Doubt,” about stating the theme through a pivotal piece of dialogue and laying the groundwork for character development.

Mur Lafferty: On Adding a Science Fiction Spin on the Murder Mystery Novel

Mur Lafferty: On Adding a Science Fiction Spin on the Murder Mystery Novel

Author Mur Lafferty discusses the process of writing hew new science fiction myster novel, Station Eternity.