English Tips: The principled Klingon cow

Communicate for Success—English Tips, Vol. 7

Klingons and cows are not known to be uniquely principled, whether or not their days are numbered. Those are the concepts we explore in this edition of English Tips.

Communicate for Success word cloud taken from Consistent Voice Communication's web home page and created with tagxedo.comThe principled principal—A principle is a fundamental law, truth, rule, or other abstract ideal. Principal means first or foremost, and refers to a person, place, or thing. If you remember that a pal is solid, you’ll use principal for the solids and principle for the abstracts.

Criterion is one in Klingon—Actually, it’s the singular of criteria. One can never have one criteria, as criteria is defined as two or more. A Klingon and Romulan walk into a bar. That’s a criterion for war.

Amount’s days aren’t numbered—Use “number” or its derivatives when the items in question can be counted. Use “amount” when the number is unknowable.

She’s unusually unique—To be unique is to be one-of-a-kind. To be unusual is to be rare. Few things are unique, so its use should be unusual. Alas, it’s not.

It’s the first annual cow-tipping competition, but another won’t pop up until the cows come home—An event is not annual until it repeats at least once the following year. Otherwise, it’s the inaugural event. Moo on that one.

More to come. Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any. Or click on the archive link below. Have a question about the English language? Ask it in the comments section.


English tips archive


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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