Easily Confused Words: Comprise vs. Compromise

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Comprise is a verb. Often used to list ingredients or components, it means “to contain” or “to be made up of.”

Compromise is a noun. It means an agreement reached between two parties in which neither party got all they wanted, but they got the important things.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Comyna was a mediator. One of her hardest tasks was getting parties to understand that being willing to compromise was a better strategy than taking an “all or nothing” attitude. The best negotiations were comprised of people actively listening, hearing each other out, and earnestly seeking to reach an agreement. 

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