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Know what comprises what

Copyeditors, writes Mark Allen, know that the whole comprises the parts, that comprises means is composed of. Comprised of is considered poor usage. So is saying parts comprise the whole, which is a common usage that could cause confusion.

The AP Stylebook recommends:

Comprise means to contain, to include all or embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The United States comprises 50 states. The jury comprises five men and seven women. The zoo comprises many animals.

Failing to heed that advice, according the Guardian and Observer Style Guide, is to invite “people who care about such things to give you a look composed of, consisting of and comprising mingled pity and contempt.”

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