Microspeak: Tenet

In standard English, a tenet is a fundamental belief held by a group of people. At Microsoft, the term tenet is used as a generalization of what we previously called taxes: Things that everybody has to do in order to be a good software citizen.

While taxes are typically very low-level and specific, like supporting roaming user profiles or multiple monitors, tenets are broader concepts like reliability or compatibility or API design and documentation.

The word doesn't escape the halls of Microsoft very often. Most of the citations I have are internal, but here's a case where Jon DeVaan let it slip into a keynote address:

And together we've improved reliability on Vista huge amount. And when you look at the compatibility tenet that we have for Windows 7, all of this work translates immediately to the reliability of Windows 7 on day one.

Occasionally, somebody will confuse the word tenet with the superficially-similar tenant.

We still have many bugs marked as High tenant impact.


  • tenant: Somebody who is renting from you.
  • tenet: An important principle or belief.

Bad pun alert: I guess a bug could be high tenant impact if it's a bedbug or lice.

Comments (18)
  1. dave says:

    High tennant impact: affects the 10th doctor.

    [Nice. -Raymond]
  2. laonianren says:

    Logic for beginners.

    Tenants live in premises.  Tenets are premises.  Tenants don't live in tenets.

  3. John Muller says:

    In an online services group (like Azure), the customers who are renting server space are called 'tenants' so 'high tenant impact' is a valid phrase.

  4. Speaking of taxes, the IE10 team forgot to pay their Windows desktop objects tax.  :(  Can't run multiple instances of IE across multiple desktops any more (using Sysinternals Desktops version 2).  This used to work in IE9…

  5. EvanED says:

    Dave's post though raises the question: is it a Tennant tenet that Tennant is a tenent?

  6. SMW says:

    That multiple monitors link appears to be broken.

  7. alegr1 says:


    For what it's worth, FF is not able to run in multiple TS sessions of same user.

  8. xpclient says:

    Auto sorting in Explorer is a violation of a core usability tenet.

  9. @alegr1: Why do you think I was using IE? :)  None of the other major competing browsers worked (whose names I shall not mention due to the rules of this blog).

  10. Brian Marshall says:

    And what are the rules for the 10th doctor living in council housing? Tennant tenement tenant tenets?

  11. Yildo says:

    Singular of "lice" is "louse".

    "…a bug could be high tenant impact if it's a bedbug or [louse]."

  12. Evan says:

    @Brian: Well, if it is not tenable for Tennant's tenents to attend to Tennant's tenement tenent tenets, Tennant may well have the temerity to toss the tenents into a tent.

    [I may be interpreting the tenentcy in the opposite direction than you were imagining (Tennant as the landlord instead of the tenent), but I couldn't make it work as well otherwise.]

  13. foo says:

    Many people follow, or purport to follow, the tenets in the New Testament. And of course the Old Testament houses the Ten Commandments, though being words inside a book, they are not considered tenants.

  14. They both come from the same root, "to hold," so the mistake is forgivable. A tenant holds space; a tenet is a belief which is held.

  15. Evan says:

    Shoot, I should have said "tendency" instead of "temerity".

  16. yes, but says:

    If you did it at the CIA's request, it could have been high Tenet impact.

  17. … and still I keep reading "telnet".

  18. Ben Voigt says:

    These comments badly misuse tenent as if it were tenant, when it actually is an archaic spelling for tenet.

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