Professional Style

Comprise

February 2013
Spot the Error

In an attempt to impress his language arts teacher with his extensive vocabulary, Jordan said, “Four children, two parents, and a dog comprise my family.”

Unfortunately, Jordan failed to impress since comprise was used incorrectly. Comprise means contain or include; the whole comprises the parts, not the other way around. You could say, “Four children … make up my family” or “Four children ... constitute my family,” but not comprise.

If your heart is set on using comprise, start with the whole and then list the parts. To correct the “family” sentence above, simply switch the order:

My family comprises four children, two parents, and a dog.

Shun the temptation to use comprised of at all costs—it’s one of my pet peeves.

Here are some variations for further guidance:

In Major League Baseball, each league comprises 15 teams.

In Major League Baseball, each league is composed of 15 teams.

In Major League Baseball, each league is made up of 15 teams.

In Major League Baseball, 15 teams constitute each league.

In Major League Baseball, 15 teams make up each league.

And to top it off … the Professional Style archive comprises lots of helpful grammar tips.

Check out more writing tips below…

 

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