Someone Needs To Get Laid

Wikipedia Editor GiraffeData has made it his mission to change every Wikipedia instance of "comprised of" to "composed of" or "consists of". He has done this over 15,000 times. He has a manifesto. Of course he does.


Here is my view of why "comprised of" is poor writing:

  • It's completely unnecessary. There are many other ways to say what the writer means by "comprised of".
  • It adds nothing to the language.
  • It's illogical for a word to mean two opposite things.
  • The etymology of the word does not support "comprised of". It comes from Latin words meaning to hold or grasp together. Other English words based on those same roots are "comprehensive" and "prehensile" (as in a monkey's prehensile tail: it can grab things). Comprise's French cousin also makes this clear.
  • It's new. Many current Wikipedia readers learned to write at a time when no respectable dictionary endorsed "comprised of" in any way. It was barely ever used before 1970. Even now, style manuals frequently call out this particular usage as something not to do.
  • It's imprecise. English has a variety of ways to say things the writer means by "comprised of". "Composed of", "consists of", and "comprises" are subtly different. In sentences I edit, it often takes careful thought to decide just which one of these things the article should say. Thus the sentence with "comprised of" isn't quite as expressive.
  • Many writers use this phrase to aggrandize a sentence -- to intentionally make it longer and more sophisticated. In these, a simple "of", "is", or "have" often produces an easier-to-read sentence. (Example: "a team comprised of scientists" versus "a team of scientists").