Monday, October 15, 2012

Correct Use of 'Comprise': Go From Big to Small


Julia writes:
I'm considering applying to Penn State. I read your post last week on Commonly Misused Words: Comprise and then spotted a mistake on this page on the Penn State website:
Five-hundred-and-forty acres, which includes more than 12,000 trees, are devoted to classrooms and office buildings, residence halls and laboratories, with more than 750 buildings comprising the main campus.
 
Nice eagle eye, Julia! Actually, I spotted two errors in that unnecessarily long and unwieldy sentence.

  1. Sentences need subject-verb agreement, meaning that a plural noun requires a verb in the plural form.

    Five-hundred-and-forty acres, which includes more than 12,000 trees... >> Five-hundred-and-forty acres, which include more than 12,000 trees...

  2. As Julia so smartly points out, there is a problem with the way the word 'comprising' is used. Comprise means the same as 'contain' or 'include'.

    According to the Associated Press Stylebook, "It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The United States comprises 50 states. The jury comprises five men and seven women. The zoo comprises many animals."

    When using comprise, always remember to go from large to small. The school comprises the classrooms, not the other way around.


Correction:
  • Five-hundred-and-forty acres, which include more than 12,000 trees, are devoted to classrooms and office buildings, residence halls and laboratories, with the main campus comprising more than 750 buildings.

4 comments:

  1. You're wrong about "comprise." Read these:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA273#v=onepage&q&f=false).

    http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/whats-the-deal-with-compose-and-comprise/

    http://www.arrantpedantry.com/2012/01/30/comprised-of-fail/

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3136

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm. I don't see the contradiction. Are you arguing 'comprises' vs. 'is comprised of'? Or the parts vs. the whole? Or is your argument about grammar or style? Or the history of language evolution?

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    2. Still confused? Here's a super explanation from Grammar Monkeys, a.k.a. the copy editors at The Wichita Eagle: http://blogs.kansas.com/grammar/2009/08/10/compose-and-comprise/

      Delete
  2. I usually have lots of mistakes whenever i write essay or speech. After reading this i think academic english editing is quite important for students like us. What you say??


    ReplyDelete