So much repetitiveness, so little space. We can thank Twitter for one thing – it’s promoting brevity in writing (actually, there are loads of reasons to love Twitter, but I’m particularly fond of this one). Our language is laden with space-hogging phrases, incorporating more words than necessary to convey proper meaning. It’s time to call them out.
I’ll start. How about “is comprised of?” All of us have likely encountered a grammarian with a pet peeve, one that expressed itself on our homework in red ink. In my case, it was this blundering phrase and I’ve been allergic to it ever since. While I believe the joy of language is partly its accommodating nature – words and phrases should morph along with the culture–I shudder to see “is comprised of” being recognized in some dictionaries. In my book, “is comprised of” can just go the way of the Dodo. This is a classic redundancy despite being sunk into the popular parlance like a tick on a dog. (Okay, full disclosure here. I first wrote the preceding phrase as “into the popular parlance of our times…” – a redundancy if ever there was one.)
Comprise means “made up of.” It indicates a whole made up of parts as in “the organization comprises four departments.” Comprise, comprises, comprised. They can stand alone without the “is” and the “of” because these are implied. You can say “the organization comprised four departments” or “the organization will comprise four departments.” Ditch “is comprised of” and rephrase your sentences in an active voice: “the word comprise comprises six letters” or “the shire once comprised twelve Hobbit villages.” You see what I mean here.
Confusion over comprise is rampant but keep in mind this simple rule: the whole before all the parts. That is, do not say “four departments comprise the organization” because, as you know, comprise means “made up of” and clearly the four departments are not made up of the organization but rather the other way around. In that sentence you would use the word “compose” not “comprise.” Nor is it correct to say “the organization comprises the departments of finance, sales, and communications” if you are listing only a few of the departments in the organization. If that’s your intention, then use the word “include,” not comprise, because “include” connotes a sampling of the parts whereas comprise connotes all of them, a whole. Voila.
Next up on the Rally: Don’t use “off” with “of” as in “off of.” “I exited off of the highway” is just fine as “I exited off the highway.” If nothing else, perhaps this post will help the tweeters among us save space without sacrificing meaning.
Best Day to You,