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January 12, 2015


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In most cases I would not use either "is composed of" or "comprises" in those sentences.
The new book has four sections.
The team is Joe Black, ... or The team members are Joe Black, ...
The benefits packages contains salary, ...

On the other side, comprised of felt very wrong when I first read it and other times I have seen it, nice to know my grammar radar was spot on. I was trusting the source not my grammar radar.

Business Writing Blog

Hi MaryHazel,

Thanks for your important point and for simplifying those test sentences. As you can guess, I was focused on people testing their understanding, not on writing crisp sentences. I like your versions.



Hello. I always enjoy your blog and email magazine. Thank you very much for your helpful lessons.

I looked up some dictionaries, and they say that "comprise" and "be comprised of" can be used in the same way. OALD, for example, shows the two examples:
- The collection comprises 327 paintings.
- The committee is comprised of representatives from both the public and private sectors.
Could I understand from this that "Our wine team comprises devoted wine lovers." can be also written as "Our wine team is comprised of devoted wine lovers."? I am a little confused, and would appreciate your advice.

Business Writing Blog

Hello Rainbow,

You will find "comprised of" in dictionaries. However, good dictionaries typically include a usage note about "comprised of." They explain that strict grammarians use only "composed of" and "comprises."

Language rules change. Some people--language purists--try to maintain distinctions and rules about what is correct.

In this blog, I typically explain what careful writers and editors prefer. If you follow their rules, you can be confident of your correctness.



Hi Lynn,

Thank you very much for your clarification. I will follow your advice in this blog and try to become a careful writer.


Excellent! I really like your blog. I am from Germany and your blog helps me writing business correspondence in English. Thank you!

Business Writing Blog

Fuggi, you are welcome! Perhaps you will write in English more effectively than native English speakers.

You may be interested in my book, "Business Writing With Heart." You can learn more here:


Steve M

Hello Lynn,
Which sentence makes more sense:
a.) The highly efficient formulation comprises marble and fiber... or
b.) The highly efficient formulation is comprised of marble and fiber...
The subtle difference between these two forms often used in our industry is puzzling.

Business Writing Blog

"Is comprised of" is never correct.

Perhaps you meant to type "is composed of." If you did, both a and b would be correct--it's your choice.


Roland L

Hi Lynn,

While writing patents, my patent lawyer said that while "composed of" and "comprises" are both grammatically correct, they mean different things legally. For example:
The fruit punch comprises apple and orange juice
The fruit punch is composed of apple and orange juice.
In the first example, the fruit punch contains apple and orange juice, but may also contain other juices. In the second example, the usage of "composed of" means that the fruit punch cannot contain anything except apple and orange juice. This is especially pertinent to scientific writing, which frequently contains formulations.

I'm wondering what your opinion of this is, and I believe it is relevant to the question Steve M posted a few months prior.

Business Writing Blog

Hi Roland,

Interesting idea! Please ask your patent lawyer for a legal source (a case or a style guide) that supports his or her view. I just checked "Garner's Modern English Usage" (2016). Garner is an attorney and a renowned language expert. He makes no such distinction.



Can we just keep it simple and stick to the rules from a credible source please? A lot of answers/replies are simply incorrect and misleading and "Garners Modern English Usage" is not a good reference source.

To avoid a long and confusing explanation – you have two choices: comprises or comprised of.

As per Oxford English Dictionary – Third Edition:

The usage is part of standard English, but the construction "comprise of", as in “…the property comprises of three bedrooms, two bathrooms and one kitchen”, is regarded as incorrect.

comprise > verb [with obj.] consists of; be made up of: "... the country comprises twenty states."

Made up or constitute [a whole]: "... this single breed comprises 50 per cent of the Swiss cattle population."

[be comprised of] “…documents are comprised of words.”

I hope that helps and if anyone has an issue with the above information, please take it up with Oxford University Press.

Business Writing Blog

Hi Gus,

I am not sure from your approach whether you are agreeing with me or not. Nevertheless, I did take it up with Oxford University Press by taking my copy of "New Oxford Style Manual" (2012) off my bookshelf. In "Part II: New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors," I find this entry (I have used capital letters for the book's bolding):

COMPRISE (not -IZE; avoid construction COMPRISE OF)

That comment seems to support us both.

I don't use just one source. I have a large shelf of highly regarded style guides, which I consult frequently. That variety helps me choose the right language in different situations.


Ilsa Gomez-Curet, PhD

From grammar studies and workshops I have taken as a writer, I was taught that compose goes from the "parts" to the "whole". An example I learned: individual musical notes make a musical composition. So, we go from the "parts" (notes) to the "whole" (composition).

On the other hand, comprises goes from the "whole" to the "individual parts". For example, The National Institute of Health comprises 12 different research departments. So, we go from the "whole" (NIH) to the "parts" (departments).

Following the guidelines above, It would be incorrect to say that the wine team is composed of devoted wine lovers because the sentence goes from the "whole" (the wine team) to the "individual parts" (the members). We cannot always replace comprised of with composed of. We know that "comprised of" is always incorrect so...

The sentence "Our wine team is COMPRISED OF devoted wine lovers who are some of the most respected professionals in the industry" cannot be simply switch to: Our wine team is COMPOSED OF devoted wine lovers who are some of the most respected professionals in the industry" because the sentences goes from the "whole" (the wine team) to the "parts" (the members).

We could say the wine team comprises devoted wine members who are ... or if you don't like how comprises "sounds" in the sentences, use a synonym.

Business Writing Blog

Hello Ms. Gomez-Curet,

Thanks for your comment. I do not own a style manual that agrees with your argument. If you have one that does, please share the information.

I understand that you learned that the word "compose" goes from the parts to the whole: the parts compose the whole. But that means the whole is composed of the parts. And that is precisely why it IS correct to say that the team is composed of wine lovers and the musical composition is composed of notes.

Is it possible that you have misinterpreted what you learned in class or that it was presented incorrectly?


Robin Garvin-Mack

I enjoyed reading this thread.
I particularly agree with MaryHazel.
Personally, I always use comprise, comprises or comprised in preference to: "comprised of", or; "composed of".

Business Writing Blog

Thanks for stopping by, Robin.


The legal definitions of comprising, composed of, and consisting of are laid out in the Manual of Patent Examining Practice and Procedure.

Comprising is considered non-exhaustive.
Composed of and consisting of are considered exhaustive.

Please see MPEP 2111.03:


Business Writing Blog

Thank you for this reference. I hope people who are applying for patents use the words correctly.



I appreciate this. But what of when the word 'comprise' is used in simple present tense and it is rather followed by an adjective instead of a noun, say, "the team comprises highly educated people"? Does the rule still apply without inclusion of the preposition 'of'?

Business Writing Blog

Hello Olajide,

Your simple present tense example is correct: "The team comprises highly educated people."

It's similar to the examples I shared above:

--Our wine team comprises devoted wine lovers.

--The trio comprised two violins and a cello.

--The panel comprises experts from four industries.



I think "compose" emphasize the parts formed whole, while "comprise", "consist", "contain" emphasize the whole having.


Thank you for your article -
I believe this rule would also apply in the following example:
Comprising of a list of 27 names, it points out that those who were involved in the act ought to be commended.

Is it unnecessary to use 'of' here and should be "Comprising a list of 27 names...." or is this allowable?

Business Writing Blog

Alex, I agree that "of" is unnecessary and wrong. "Comprising a list . . . " is correct.


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