Let’s discuss composed of vs. comprised of. The following sentence is from an advertising supplement in The New York Times:
- Our wine team is comprised of devoted wine lovers who are some of the most respected professionals in the industry.
Your test: Is the phrase “comprised of” correct, or should “composed of” replace it? Why?
Composed Of Vs. Comprised Of
The phrases “composed of” and “comprised of” appear in business documents daily, raising doubts in writers’ and readers’ minds. Which one is correct? Or are both correct?
The word comprise means “contain” or “consist of.” With that definition in mind, let’s replace comprise in the original sentence:
- Our wine team is contained of devoted wine lovers.
- Our wine team is consisted of devoted wine lovers.
How do those sound to you?
The word compose means “make up” or “form.” If we replace comprise in the original sentence with those definitions, we get:
- Our wine team is made up of devoted wine lovers.
- Our wine team is formed of devoted wine lovers.
Yes, “composed of” is the correct form. The phrase “comprised of” is never correct to use and purists despite its regular appearance in writing. If you want to be correct in the eyes of discriminating readers, use “composed of.”
If you like the look and sound of comprise, you can still use it correctly. Be guided by its meaning “contain” or “consist of”:
- Our wine team comprises devoted wine lovers.
- The trio comprised two violins and a cello.
- The panel comprises experts from four industries.
Let’s take a look at how both are used in various media sources.
- Behind this battleground a mountain stands. It is composed of debt. I applaud the Ryan pick because it places front and center what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, has called the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security: its debt. – The New York Times
- This aims to grow steadily over the medium- to long-term although investors are not guaranteed of getting a positive rate of return. It is predominantly comprised of bonds and gilts. – The New Yorker
Fill in these blanks with correct words or phrases:
- The new book ___________ four sections.
- The team ____________ Joe Black, Andrea Rogers, and Rabin Gupta.
- The benefits package ____________ salary, health insurance, and three weeks of vacation.
Did you choose a phrase or a single word for your answers?
For each item, you may correctly use either “is composed of” or “comprises.”
Remember, even though you see “comprised of” often (even in The New York Times) careful writers use “composed of” and “comprises.”
Which phrasing do you prefer?
Further reading: Amid vs. Amidst