The Currently Most Frequently Misused Word in the English Language

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on January 28, 2008 @ 10:38 pm

“Comprise” or “comprised.”

Meaning: To consist of; to include; to take the parts into the whole, as in “The nation of Canada comprises several distinct provinces.”

Misuse: “The nation of Canada is comprised of several distinct provinces.”

The whole comprises the parts. The parts never comprise the whole; nor is the whole ever comprised of the parts. The word you’re looking for, misusers, is “composed.” “The nation of Canada is composed of several distinct provinces.” Drop two letters and substitute a third and you will have the correct usage.

The vast number of educated people who constantly misuse this word boggles my mind. If you’re one of them, stop it. Stop it right now, I say. Unfortunately the misuse has become so common that it has passed into general usage. Just because Saul Bellow decided he was cool enough to do it and his editors didn’t stop him doesn’t mean you have to contribute to the gradual erosion of proper meanings.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace