Standing Up For The Principal's Principles

Learning the difference between 'principle' and 'principal' requires only a simple and cheesy aide-mémoire: "The principal of your school is your pal." Clearly most people remember their school principal as an evil cane-wielding figure, because this error still occurs regularly. Check out the Back To School sale advertising from Myer above.

Myer apparently changed this signage after customers pointed out that it was incorrect. That's a good thing, but it would have been better to avoid the mistake in the first place.

Admittedly, the 'principal/pal' trick isn't entirely helpful, because it doesn't cover the frequent use of 'principal' as an adjective meaning, roughly, "first or most important". It's yet another case where, ultimately, you need to learn the correct usage in each context.

Accuracy matters. That's a principle no-one can argue with. Thanks Kaaren for the photo tip!

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Not the first time for Myer. 12 months ago their stocktake sale signage read "Early bird get's the right size"

    In a similar vein and perhaps fodder for a future "Mind Your Language".
    Dessert and Desert
    You always go back for seconds (especially a second 's') with Dessert.

      Don't forget the second meaning of 'desert', as 'something you deserve', as in the saying 'he got his just deserts'. People always misspell that one because it's pronounced the same way as 'dessert'.

        Hmm good point!
        I'm not sure I knew that little tidbit (not something I'd commonly write), but it makes sense..

    Hi, is the phrase "accuracy matters" the right phrase in this context? I would have said "correctness matters" in this situation. When you have to do something properly, wouldn't it be better to use "correct" rather than "accurate" ?

    Might be worth mentioning the second use of 'principal', as an adjective. If you're taking about 'the principal advantage to this approach', '-al' is the right spelling. This usage seems to be confused more often than the noun does.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now