Common Errors in Written English: Comprised Of

Usage Murder: Getting Rid of the “Of” after “Comprised”

by Owen Fourie

Are the following sentences correct?

  • The jury of twelve is comprised of eight men and four women.
  • This idea was suggested by the planning committee comprised of teachers and parents.
  • An independent panel comprised of prominent capitalists, business leaders, and professional athletes will consider the proposal for a new stadium.

These statements have been adapted from actual instances on the Internet.

The meaning of “comprised”

Comprised means

  • to consist of
  • to be composed of
  • to include
  • to contain

These phrases indicate that the word comprise is used to reveal the separate parts that make up the whole entity, whatever it is. It is a word that links the whole to its parts; the whole comprises the parts.

Comprise, in itself, already includes the meaning of the preposition of, so there is no point in adding of.

To correct the above examples, we would have the following forms:

  • The jury of twelve comprises eight men and four women.
  • This idea was suggested by the planning committee comprising teachers and parents.
  • An independent panel comprising prominent capitalists, business leaders, and professional athletes will consider the proposal for a new stadium.

Another way to correct these sentences is to remove any form of comprise and use composed or consist with the preposition of:

  • The jury of twelve is composed of eight men and four women.
  • This idea was suggested by the planning committee consisting of teachers and parents.
  • An independent panel composed of prominent capitalists, business leaders, and professional athletes will consider the proposal for a new stadium.

The whole comprises the parts and the parts compose the whole

The rule that is followed for correct usage, in writing and speaking, is the whole comprises the parts, and the parts compose the whole.

If your sentence moves from the whole to the parts, use comprise and do not put of after it.

  • The Commonwealth of Australia comprises the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and other smaller islands in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean.
  • The United Kingdom comprises four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

If your sentence moves from the parts to the whole, use compose, so you would write

  • Eight men and four women composed the jury of twelve.
  • Teachers and parents composing the planning committee suggested this idea.
  • Prominent capitalists, business leaders, and professional athletes composing an independent panel will consider the proposal for a new stadium.

Composed can be replaced by constitute or make up:

  • Eight men and four women constitute the jury of twelve.
  • Eight men and four women make up the jury of twelve.

Note that, in these constructions to illustrate the rule, the word of is not used.

Simply remember this

Once you are familiar with this rule, simply memorize the first part of it: the whole comprises the parts. This will help you to use the word comprise correctly, without of, and it will also help you to use the other words properly.

An unfortunate trend

Comprised of, although it is not correct, is gaining acceptance in formal writing and speaking.

Here is another instance of wrong usage that becomes acceptable. Unfortunately, the sanction of incorrect usage serves only to make good writing and good speaking seem strange.

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1 comment

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