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When using the word Principal to describe the head or director of a school, under what situations should one capitalize it, and when should it be lower-cased?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Principal should be capitalized when used as a title preceding the name of the person but uncapitalized if used as a description following the name. For example,

Let us welcome Principal Bob.

Let us welcome Bob, the principal of the school.

See for example Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

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What about in the case of something like "The Pittsburgh High School Pricipal's Office" vs "The Pittsburgh High School principal's office"? –  Bob Jan 27 '12 at 19:48
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It would be "the Pittsburgh High School Principal's office" (used as a title) or "the Pittsburgh High School's principal's office" (descriptive common noun belonging to the school). –  Ben Voigt Jan 27 '12 at 19:52
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Tips on the capitalization of the word principal:

  • you should capitalize the word principal when it goes before a proper noun, such as "Principal Skinner", or "Mr. Skinner, Principal of Springfield Elementary School".

  • you should not capitalize the word principal when the word stands alone without a person's name like "we're sending you to the principal".

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