Usage Tip: Tenant/tenet

One amusing usage error is when people use tenant when they mean tenet. A tenant, of course, is someone renting a property, while a tenet is “a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come across phrases such as “one of the basic tenants of Marxism.” (I hope their rent is cheaper than mine.)

Merriam-Webster offers a suggestion for remembering the difference: tenant and occupant both end in -ant. So if you find yourself writing the word tenant, make sure you mean occupant.

Meanwhile, there’s also actor David Tennant, whose name has a whole three N’s. I personally come across his name so often when editing entertainment journalism that I often have to remind myself that the word tenant only has two N’s. But I would imagine he gets his name misspelled “Tenant” all the time.

David Tennant in blue shirt

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