The principal writing principle

The principal (or most important) principle (or basic rule) of writing is to know something about the language you’re writing in. The writer for Yahoo! Style illustrates one possible outcome if you dare to violate that principle:

The head administrator of a high school is a principal. Didn’t we all learn in third grade: The principal is your pal?


Is that a pleasure-school administrator?

The crucial difference between Yahoo! Style editors and the rest of the English-speaking world? Yahoo! Style editors don’t know the difference between a principal (which is a school administrator or something that is highest in rank or importance) and a principle (which is a rule or standard):

pleasure principal sty

They just had to put that headline in the largest font imaginable. But, minutes later, the editors changed it! When I saw that they had added a picture to that headline, I was hopeful that they’d also see the error of their ways. But, noooo:

pleasure sty

It’s the principle of the thing

It’s entirely possible that the writer for Yahoo! Style is correct:

principle instructor sty

I suppose Ms. Mitchell might actually be a principle instructor, teaching people about some unnamed rule or law. It’s possible. But it’s not correct. Ms. Mitchell is a principal (or primary or chief) instructor.

Did Rihanna and Kurt Cobain attend the same school?

In an article about the similarities between Rihanna and Kurt Cobain, the Yahoo! Style writer implied that the two musicians had the same principal:

principals same sty

Does that mean they attended the same high school? Or did they attend different schools that had the same head administrator? Or does the writer not know the difference between a principal and a principle?

One key principle to writing

Here’s one key principle to writing: If you don’t have a competent editor, be your own editor. Oh, and another principle: Learn the difference between principle and principal. That’s a lesson lost on this Yahoo! Food writer:

principals foo

It’s the principle of the thing

If I understand this article on Yahoo! Travel correctly, there are school administrators at Burning Man:

principals trav

And why not! Principals have every right to be there. It’s a basic principle of freedom.

Who is the real principal culprit?

Who’s the principal culprit in this horrendous word usage on the Yahoo! front page?

fp principle

Is it the writer, who doesn’t know that principle refers to a truth, law, rule, standard, or tenet? Or the editor (if there is one) who doesn’t know that as an adjective principal means “leading, chief, first, or highest ranking”?

It’s the principle of the thing

I don’t know if Yahoo! Style has a principal editor — someone in charge who is capable of improving the articles it publishes — but it sure could use one. I’m thinking of someone who knows the difference between principle (which is a rule or standard) and principal (which is not):

principle glamor sty

As for glamor, the American Heritage Dictionary tells us:

Many words, such as honor, vapor, and labor, are usually spelled with an -or ending in American English but with an -our ending in British English. The preferred spelling of glamour, however, is -our, making it an exception to the usual American practice. The adjective is more often spelled glamorous in both American and British usage.

Habits and school administrators

Thank goodness for school principals! At least one former student acknowledges that habits and principals made him rich, according to Yahoo! Finance:

principals fin

Of course, one might think that he was referring to his principles of work and perseverance. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

It’s the principle of the thing

Here’s the principal reason I dislike Yahoo! Style: The quality of writing on the site is abysmal.

principle dancers style

It’s a basic principle of mine: If you’re paid to write, you should have a basic knowledge of the language you’re writing in.

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