Composed vs. Comprised

Today’s Tip of the Day comes from Rhonda Cavender of Shea Writing & Training Solutions, who helps people “create clarity out of chaos, one sentence at a time.”

‘Compose’ and ‘comprise’ are two verbs that are easy to mix up if the writer isn’t aware of their differences.

‘Compose’ means ‘to form by putting together,’ while ‘comprise’ means ‘to include, contain, or consist of.’
In both cases, we are dealing with parts and a whole.
Hint: when using ‘comprise,’ the whole always comes before the parts in the sentence.

The United States comprises 50 states.

Fifty states compose the United States.

NOTE: Most grammarians insist that ‘is comprised of’ is an incorrect phrase.

Although you will find some sources that will allow its usage, the Handbook of Technical Writing, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Associated Press Style Guide (among others) insist that the use of ‘comprised of’ is incorrect.

The following was taken directly from the Chicago Manual of Style:

comprise; compose. Use these with care.
To comprise is “to be made up of, to include” {the whole comprises the parts}.
To compose is “to make up, to form the substance of something” {the parts compose the whole}.
The phrase “comprised of,” though increasingly common, is poor usage. Instead, use “composed of” or “consisting of.”

Great Opportunity of the Day:
Shea Writing Solutions is holding a Technical Writing Workshop in Houston Sept. 5-7. 2012.
If you would like more info, visit: http://www


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