[We must all strive for perfection. @Giraffedata, you know who you are.]
Grammar Stickler Banishes
comprised of From Wikipedia
When I came across an online story headlined “One
Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake,” I of course had to find out who this fellow grammar stickler was and which error had become his obsession.
A software engineer writing as Giraffedata, this stickler edits Wikipedia reports for the incorrect use of comprise.
He claims to have made 47,000 corrections since 2007.
I’d had comprise vs. compose on my list of potential topics
for years, but so many people use comprised of incorrectly that I’d considered it a lost cause.
Here are examples of comprise as well as words with similar meanings.
Comprise means to contain, to include, to consist of:
- Congress comprises 435 representatives.
- His car collection comprises eight Model T Fords.
- The committee comprises six women and eight men.
Compose means to form in combination, to make up, to constitute:
- Congress is composed of 435 representatives.
- His car collection is composed of eight Model T Fords.
- The committee is composed of six women and eight men.
Consist means to be formed of or made up of:
- Congress consists of 435 representatives.
- His car collection consists of eight Model T Fords.
- The committee consists of six women and eight men.
Constitute means to make up, to be components of or to be elements of:
- Four hundred thirty-five representatives constitute Congress.
- Eight Model T Fords constitute his car collection.
- Six women and eight men constitute the committee.
When you use comprise, you first mention the whole of something and follow with its components:
- Congress … 435 representatives
- car collection … eight Model T Fords
- committee … six women, eight men
When you use constitute, you first mention the components of something and follow with the whole:
- 435 representatives … Congress
- eight Model T Fords … car collection
- six women and eight men … committee
- Killer Tip: Something can be composed of or can consist of elements, but it can’t be comprised of or constituted of elements.
Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.
In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.