It’s something we often skip over when reading — comprise/compose. Is there really a difference? Does it really matter that much which one we use?
Actually, it does. When your audience knows the difference and you don’t, a tiny question of credibility seeps into your readers’ brains making them wonder if you don’t know the difference or if you were just being a lazy copy editor. Either is a distraction from your writing, and neither is an impression you want to give them.
So, what’s the difference anyway?
- Comprise means to “consist of; be made up of; to be composed of.”
- Compose means either “to write or create (a work of art like music)” OR “(of elements) constitute or make up (a whole).”
Comprised is often misused for composed:
Wrong: The U.S. women’s national soccer team is comprised of 23 players who went to the World Cup.
Correct: The U.S. women’s national soccer team is composed of 23 players who went to the World Cup.
How to use comprise:
The easiest way to stay out of trouble with this word is to NOT use it with “of.”
Correct: The U.S. women’s national soccer team comprises forwards, midfielders, defensive players and a goalkeeper.
Correct: The World Cup champions comprise the best players in the world, including Ali Krieger, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.