Tag Archives: business writing

Is “comprised of” ever correct?

You’ve probably seen sentences that include the words comprised of.

comprised of error

As seen online

Perhaps you’ve used this phrasing yourself. Comprised of is considered incorrect usage by some authorities. Why?

To comprise means to include, consist of, or be made up of:

The whole comprises the parts.

Each agency comprises numerous departments.

The university comprises seven colleges.

To compose means to form the substance of or put together:

We will compose a letter and ask you to review it before we send it.

The planet Jupiter is composed of gases.

The committee is composed of representatives from every state.

Comprised of seems like a confused combination of composed of and comprised. (Notice, too, that of follows “consist (of)” and “made up (of)” above. You can see how the confusion may have arisen.)

However, of does not follow include, which is akin to comprise. You wouldn’t say, “The group includes of six men and four women,” and, clearly, you shouldn’t say “comprises of” either.

So what about switching the earlier sentences around and using comprised of as follows:

The whole is comprised of the parts. ?

Each agency is comprised of numerous departments. ?

The university is comprised of seven colleges. ?

Well, you wouldn’t say “included of,” would you?

The meaning of include is broader than the way we use comprise; include may be used to cover all of the subject’s constituent parts or in reference to some of them:

Attendees included the governor and his wife. (The governor and his wife were not the only people there.)

Two new drugs were among those included in the study. (The two new drugs were not the only drugs studied.)

The property that is for sale includes a three-bedroom house, a barn, and four acres of land. (The listing doesn’t mention a pond, and there may or may not be one on the land.)

Comprised is used to describe the whole or entirety:

The district comprises ten towns. (and no others)

When completed, the structure will comprise three interconnected buildings. (three and only three)

The task force will comprise delegates from all five regions. (In other words, representatives from all five regions will be included. The task force is made up of delegates from five regions.)

I belong to the camp that dislikes comprised of. But, languages change and evolve; that which was considered unacceptable yesterday may be fine today or tomorrow.

Objection to the use of comprised of will vary depending upon your field and audience, but if your standard is impeccability, be aware of the disagreement about correctness and adjust accordingly.

My advice is to consider rephrasing when you find yourself wanting to say or write “comprised of.” 


Leigh’s argument consists of assumptions and theories and is devoid of verifiable facts.

 
 
 
 
 
 

“due to” or “because of”?

Is the wording of this sign correct?

The phrase due to functions as an adjective, whereas because of functions as an adverb.

Recall that adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs and answer questions such as when, where, how, to what extent, and why.

Example:

Steve walked slowly down the street. “Slowly” tells us how Steve (subject) walked (verb); “down the street” is a prepositional phrase that tells us where he walked. “Steve walked” can stand on its own, but the extra words provide additional information about Steve’s action.

Adjectives modify (or describe) nouns and pronouns, so if we want more information about Steve, rather than about his walking, we look to adjectives.

Example:

Steve was ecstatic. (“Ecstatic” is an adjective.)

In the USDA notice above, the phrase that modifies closed (an adjective) is there to explain why the facility is closed; therefore, an adverbial phrase (because of) is needed.

Correct:

The closure was due to bad weather. (The adjectival phrase due to bad weather modifies the noun closure. I could choose other adjectives to describe the closure: The closure was brief. Or: The closure was unexpected. Brief and unexpected are adjectives.)

Correct:

The school is closed because of bad weather. (“The school is closed” would be a complete sentence, but the additional information explains why the school is closed. because of is part of an adverbial phrase that modifies an adjective (closed). The sentence could be rewritten as: Because of bad weather, the school is closed.)

Breaking a sentence into its basic components can sometimes help you see the functions of different parts more clearly:

This facility is closed due to funding. X

Here, facility (noun) is the subject, is is the verb, and closed is an adjective modifying facility. The rest of the sentence explains “why” the facility is closed; thus, an adverbial phrase (because of) is needed.

The sign should read:

This U.S. Department of Agriculture facility is currently closed because of the lapse in federal government funding.

Correct:

The closure is due to Congressional inaction. (The phrase due to Congressional inaction is modifying the subject (closure), so it functions as an adjective.)

The following sentence could stand on its own:

The park is closed.

We can add additional information to it:

The park is closed because of inadequate funding. (Because of explains why the park is closed (i.e., it modifies the adjective closed).)

The closure is due to inadequate funding. (Compare: “The closure is temporary.” temporary is an adjective.)

In casual conversation, we are more likely to say because of (unless we are speaking of arrivals and departures: Scott is due to arrive in one hour.)

I left because of his insults.

I was late for work because of the storm.

In written communications, due to can seem more formal.

I was late for work due to unforeseen circumstances. X

The purpose of the phrase “due to unforeseen circumstances” is to explain why I was late; thus, because of is the correct choice.

If formality is appropriate, correct usage is essential!

Takeaway: Don’t worry if you can’t remember when to use due to and when to use because of. If you know that the two often get confused in people’s minds (perhaps in yours, too), then when you are writing or editing one of these phrases, you can take a moment to refresh your memory before finalizing your message or document.

By reading things that are well written (and following blogs such as this one!) you are expanding your knowledge base and improving your ability to spot problems. If you find a problem, you have an opportunity to fix it!