Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Horrors of Comprise

It’s time for us to take a look at comprise, a word that is often used incorrectly. Like all things in life, the definition of comprise is best illustrated through The Three Stooges. A correct usage of comprise would be, “The Three Stooges comprise Moe, Larry and Curly.”

For many, the urge is to say, “Moe, Larry and Curly comprise The Three Stooges," or "The Three Stooges are comprised of Moe, Larry and Curly,” both of which are incorrect. A nice little gadfly to have haunting your mind is that there is no such construction as comprised of. Some writers have success keeping away from it by repeating the old country librarian’s mantra, “Comprised of is like a downed power line. Don’t touch it. Evah!”

An important thing to know about the word comprise is that I have been using the word comprise incorrectly in this article up to this point. One of the chief connotations of comprise is that the enumerated items following the word comprise constitute the parent word in its entirety.

I said, “The Three Stooges comprise Moe, Larry and Curly,” when to be factually accurate and correct in my usage I should have said, “The Three Stooges comprise Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp and Joe Besser,” a far less streamlined mnemonic. I hope you’ll understand why I skipped it, and I hope mentioning this ultra-literal interpretation of my chief example didn’t throw any of you off the trail of having the correct usage of comprise firmly in your grasp.