Tenet and Tenant

The following sentence from a site for writers prompted this post:

Writing a good logline is very difficult for most people because of a failure to understand the three basic tenants of a good logline…

The word wanted in this context is tenet, not tenant.

tenant: noun, a person who holds a piece of land, a house, etc., by lease for a term of years or a set time.

tenet: noun, a doctrine, dogma, principle, or opinion, in religion, philosophy, politics, or the like, held by a school, sect, party, or person.

Both tenet and tenant derive from the same Latin verb, tenere, “to hold.” The third person form of the verb is tenet, “he holds.” A tenant “holds” the right to the use of property. A tenet is a doctrine “held” by a believer.

The most common error in the use of these words is to write tenant for tenet. Here are some examples of this misuse:

Parents Argue State-Mandated Screenings Violate Religious Tenants

Short matrix comparison between major tenants of Christianity, Islam and Judaism

Tenants and Beliefs of Modern Humanism

What are the beliefs and tenants of the Neo American Church?

The basic Sufi tenants are slightly different…

Bottom line: A tenant is a person. If you’re writing about beliefs or principles, use tenet.

M. J. Maddox, PhD 
is the American English Doctor.  
 

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