Do you remember learning in school that “the Principal is your pal?” Maybe this was how you remembered the correct spelling of “principal”?
Yet many principal brokers refer to themselves as “Principle Broker”.
They misspell it on their business cards. They automate the error in their email signature line. They spell it wrong on their website. They splash all over the Internet.
When I receive an email from a “Principle Broker” I just think, “girlfriend, your slip is showing; brother, your fly is down…should I tell this person? “
In a quick Google search I found 473,000 hits for “principal broker” (that’s good). I also found 113,000 instances of “principle broker” (that’s bad).
You may have heard of “brokers” and “agents”. Perhaps you already know what a “Realtor” is. But what is a “principal broker” anyway, you wonder?
In the context of real estate, one definition of “principal broker” is:
A name given in some states to the responsible party in a real estate office; sometimes called the managing broker or the qualifying broker. It is the person legally authorized to enter into agency contracts with consumers, and the person legally responsible for supervising the agents who work under that supervision.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “principal” as:
The person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or group.
The word “principle”, on the other hand, is defined like this:
A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.
Because the principal broker is the top dog, the person in charge of the real estate office, the correct spelling is “principal”.
Grammar Girl Weighs In
Apparently, Realtors are not the only ones who confuse the two words. Mignon Fogarty, AKA Grammar Girl tackled this issue in a recent podcast. Grammar Girl is an expert and her podcast ranks on the top 40 on ITunes. She explains the difference between “principal” and “principle” better than I can. You can listen to her podcast on this issue below (this part starts 4:12 minutes into the podcast):
If you prefer, you can read a transcript of her podcast.
The bottom line for Realtors is this: It’s supposed to be “principal broker” not “principle broker”. If Grammar Girl says so it has to be true. Grammar Girl wouldn’t lie.
I’m concerned for all you buyers and sellers out there, working with “principle brokers”. I can’t help but wonder how the person in charge of a real estate office goes for years misspelling their title? Did they miss they day in school where we all learned that “the Principal is our pal?” Did they miss a lot of days in school? Do they lack attention to detail? Why didn’t anyone in their office notice this misspelling? Does their staff lack attention to detail too? Will this broker also overlook key items in real estate contracts or physical inspections?
I don’t know, maybe I’m getting my “panties in a bunch” over nothing. We all make mistakes.
On the other hand, it’s not just some random word it’s your TITLE after all. You spell your name correctly, right? It seems like you would get your job title correct too.
Think it’s no big deal? Here’s the real truth of it: If you work with clients who don’t know the difference then it is no big deal to them. However, there is a whole ocean of prospects out there, educated ones, who are noticing and making a mental note of this error. It’s registering in their minds, especially if it’s somewhere prominent like your business card or website. They’re just too polite to say anything. Maybe they’re just silently moving on down the road, deciding to work with a different broker…
And While I’m At It
Now that I think of it, there are least three areas in real estate where “principal” and “principle” are commonly confused:
CORRECT: “The remaining principal on the loan is $100,000.”
INCORRECT: “The down payment is 20% and the principle is 80%.”
CORRECT: “The buyer and seller are both principals.”
INCORRECT: “The agent is a fiduciary to his principle in a transaction.”
CORRECT: “I am the Principal Broker in charge of the real estate office.”
INCORRECT: “My name is John Smith, Principle Broker.”
Repeat After Me
“The principal broker is my pal.”
“The client is the principal and also my pal.”
“The loan principal is my pal.” (Yeah, I know that one is a stretch!)
Now you have it straight! So get out there and edit those business cards and websites. Or forward this blog post to a pal …