Software engineer Bryan Henderson has gained attention for his diligent efforts to rectify the misuse of the phrase “comprised of” on Wikipedia. While some hail him as a hero, others question the significance of his crusade. In this article, we delve into Henderson’s mission, the historical context of the word “comprise,” and the ongoing debate surrounding its proper usage.
The Origin and Evolution of “Comprise”
The term “comprise” entered the English language in the 15th century, originally meaning “to take hold of.” Its ending, “prise,” is related to the concept of being grasped, akin to the term “prehensile.” Additionally, “comprise” was synonymous with “comprehend” until at least the 19th century. Over time, the meaning shifted, and the predominant interpretation now associates “comprise” with the concept of “consist of.”
The Redundancy Issue: “Comprised Of” vs. “Consist Of”
Given that “comprise” now conveys the idea of “consist of,” the phrase “comprised of” is considered redundant. For instance, saying a traditional Manhattan cocktail “comprises whiskey, vermouth, and bitters” is sufficient to convey its composition. The whole encompasses its parts, making the additional “of” unnecessary.
The Style Guide Debate
While style guides often emphasize the distinction between “comprised of” and “consist of,” it is important to note that using “comprised of” does not defy logic or cause harm. The primary argument against its usage is the discomfort it may cause some individuals. However, it is worth mentioning that even stating “comprises” something can strike certain people as excessively formal or stuffy. The choice between the two is subjective and depends on personal preferences.
Henderson’s Mission and Approach
Bryan Henderson’s dedication to addressing incorrect instances of “comprised of” on Wikipedia is commendable. His weekly commitment to editing articles and rectifying these errors provides a valuable service for grammar enthusiasts. Notably, Henderson does not simply substitute the phrase; instead, he simplifies sentences and highlights that “comprise” is often used to unnecessarily lengthen and sophisticate the writing. For instance, he suggests replacing “a team comprised of scientists” with the more concise “a team of scientists.”
Copy Editing and the Pursuit of Consistency
As copy editors, it is our responsibility to adhere to style guidelines to avoid confusion caused by divergent grammatical uses within a single publication. Henderson’s dedication to correcting the misuse of “comprised of” contributes to the overall clarity of Wikipedia articles and eliminates distractions for readers.
Bryan Henderson’s ongoing efforts to rectify the improper usage of “comprised of” on Wikipedia have sparked both praise and skepticism. While the debate surrounding its correctness continues, it is crucial to recognize the evolving nature of language and the subjective preferences of writers and readers. Whether one chooses to use “comprised of” or “consist of,” the ultimate goal should be clear and effective communication. Henderson’s commitment to grammatical precision serves as an inspiration for language enthusiasts, reminding us of the importance of accurate expression in our writing.
Leave a Reply