“comprise” “compose” and “include”

You’ve probably seen sentences that include the words comprised of.Perhaps you’ve used this phrasing yourself. Comprised of is considered incorrect usage by some authorities. Why?

To comprise means to include, consist of, or be made up of:

The whole comprises the parts.

Each agency comprises numerous departments.

The university comprises seven colleges.

To compose means to form the substance of or put together:

We will compose a letter and ask you to review it before we send it.

The planet Jupiter is composed of gases.

The committee is composed of representatives from every state.

Comprised of seems like a confused combination of composed of and comprised. (Notice, too, that of follows “consist (of)” and “made up (of)” above. You can see how the confusion may have arisen.)

However, of does not follow include, which is akin to comprise. You wouldn’t say, “The group includes of six men and four women,” and, clearly, you shouldn’t say “comprises of” either.

So what about switching the earlier sentences around and using comprised of as follows:

The whole is comprised of the parts. ?

Each agency is comprised of numerous departments. ?

The university is comprised of seven colleges. ?

Well, you wouldn’t say “included of,” would you? 

The meaning of include is broader than the way we use comprise; include may be used to cover all of the subject’s constituent parts or in reference to some of them:

Attendees included the governor and his wife. (The governor and his wife were not the only people there.)

Two new drugs were among those included in the study. (The two new drugs were not the only drugs studied.)

The property that is for sale includes a three-bedroom house, a barn, and four acres of land. (The listing doesn’t mention a pond, and there may or may not be one on the land.)

Comprised is used to describe the whole or entirety:

The district comprises ten towns. (and no others)

When completed, the structure will comprise three interconnected buildings. (three and only three)

The task force will comprise delegates from all five regions. (In other words, representatives from all five regions will be included. The task force is made up of delegates from five regions.)

I belong to the camp that dislikes comprised of. But, languages change and evolve; that which was considered unacceptable yesterday may be fine today or tomorrow.

Objection to the use of comprised of will vary depending upon your field and audience, but if your standard is impeccability, be aware of the disagreement about correctness and adjust accordingly.

My advice is to consider rephrasing when you find yourself wanting to say or write “comprised of.” 


Leigh’s argument consists of assumptions and theories and is devoid of verifiable facts.

 

 

 

 

 

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