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The Principle Investigator? Help!

I was reading a scientific recommendation the other day when I came upon the phrase "principle investigator." It had me worried. Did the project require someone to investigate our principles? Were we guilty of ethical lapses? Were our rules in need of scrutiny?

I hope the answer to those questions is no. If it is no, then the correct phrase is "principal investigator." It means "chief investigator" or "lead investigator."  

If  you'd like to read more about the correct use of principal and principle, read my posts The Principal Principle and Business Cards & Principals.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

3 comments on “The Principle Investigator? Help!”

  • Principle investigator is a widely accepted term within scientific and engineering research meaning lead investigator. Lead investigator would not, however, usually be used in those contexts.

  • Opps. Yes, it should be principal with an “A”. But principal investigator is better than lead investigator when speaking of scientific research.

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