What’s your principal principle?

in Back to basics

Here’s the latest in my series of back to basics blogs. This one was prompted by spotting someone getting principal and principle mixed up. So here’s a quick guide to principals and principles…

Important people and things are principals

The word principal refers to the main or most important someone or something.

The headteacher at a school is sometimes called the principal.
Catherine is the principal point of contact on this project.
Birmingham is the principal city in the Midlands.

If this isn’t what you mean, you need the other spelling…

People have got principles

Principles are things you have.

I don’t buy air freighted food on principle.
My principles mean it’s important that I buy local and seasonal fruit and vegetables.

You can also use principle to mean “theory”.

In principle, if it’s made locally, I’ll like it.
The principle of gravity is useful.

And finally, you can also use it to refer to one or more generally held rules.

The principles of good grammar.

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