TENET, Not Tenant

“An important tenant of good manners is being a good listener,” said the symposium panelist, after which any English teachers who happened to be in the audience tried their best not pipe up and set the panelist straight. Unwittingly, the misspeaker called to mind a tenant who boards at a finishing school mundanely named Good Manners… and where she fell down the job was confusing tenet — the word she wanted — with tenant, the meaning of which is a thousand miles away:

tenant  1) someone who rents or leases a house, apartment, etc. from a landlord
; 2) a person, business, group, etc., that pays to use another person’s property

tenet  a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true, especially one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession

Frankly, the words sound so much alike that a spoken misusage can pass by most ears without notice. But when it comes to the written word, avoid the substitution of tenant for tenet lest you risk eviction from the Good Writers club.

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