Grammar Hammer: The Tenets of Tenants

I always go back and reread what I’ve written several times. I may even read it out loud to make sure it sounds right. A news release that crossed my desk recently had me reading the same sentence a few times. The release was about an organization talking about its principles, but the word used was “tenant,” as in, “One of the key tenants of Organization X…”

I stopped. Read it again. Tenants. Wait, that’s wrong.  That should be “tenet,” right?

Right.

Here’s what’s interesting – there’s actually a pretty good reason why we confuse both of these words.  “Tenant” and “tenet” come from the Latin word “tenere,” which means “to hold.”  Other words that come from this Latin root are “tenacious” and “tenure.”

A “tenet” is an opinion, principle, dogma or doctrine, especially one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement.  Going back to the Latin root – having a tenet is “to hold a belief.”

Example: A core tenet of PR Newswire is to positively impact our customer’s reputation, brand and revenue by enabling content to reach and engage target audiences.

A “tenant” is a person or group that rents and occupies land, a house, an office, and the like, from another for a period of time. A tenant “holds a lease.”

Example: PR Newswire is a tenant in the Penton Media Building in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tenants should have tenets, though. A tenet for a tenant should be to leave the space in the same condition or better than when you moved in. Ask anyone who has ever served on a homeowner’s association board or a condo board, and I’m sure they’ll tell you they have some tenets that pertain to how people live in their neighborhoods.

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services for PR Newswire.

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