This Blog Comprises Three Short Paragraphs

Okay, this is going to be a short but concise post here. Repeat after me: “The whole comprises the parts . . . the whole comprises the parts.”

Writers always mess up with comprise. The word does not mean compose. You cannot say “it is comprised of.” Sorry, can’t. A house comprises six rooms. My novel comprises eighteen chapters. This blog comprises fifty-two entries for the year. Okay, some say the word has evolved and now it’s acceptable to use comprise to mean “compose,” but as Merriam-Webster says: “You may be subject to critcism if you do so.” Heaven forbid someone criticizes your misuse of comprise!

Now, my bicycle is composed of various metals like aluminum and steel. Or I could say my cheesecake is made up of ten different ingredients. This may sound odd to your ear, but this is the correct way to use comprise. Comprende?

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  1. Well. I did not know this. Yikes. Now I want to find a way to use it just so that I can get used to the new feel of it.

    This might have just blown my mind coming to me on a Friday. If it had been Monday, well, I would have had all week to chomp on it. But Friday? I’m just getting ready to shut down!

    Thanks… I think.


  2. I remember it like this: “Comprise” is from the French “compris”–comprehended. So this blog comprehends (that is to say takes in or includes) three short paragraphs.

    It’s a tricky one, all right.

  3. This is my most-hated word in the English language because you can rarely be sure what the writer is trying to say. Does he mean “is composed of?” or “makes up?”. Because both usages are extremely common, the word no longer has any meaning. It is, essentially, its own antonym. I scream every time I read it.

    Now, will someone please explain to me why “flammable” and “inflammable” are synomyms?

    1. Yes, flammable is now acceptable as a meaning for inflammable. Nonflammable is the word one is supposed to use to mean it’s not flammable, but as Archibald Hill says in “Bad Words, Good Words, Misused Words”: Inflammable can be confused with noncombustible and so lead to accidents.” Oh my … The prefix “bi” is a problem too, since it means twice, so most of the time it’s unclear whether biannual means twice a year or every two years (it can mean both). So, best to just avoid these words and rewrite.

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