A Compliment Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

One letter often makes an enormous difference. A 'compliment' is a fine thing to receive. But if you describe "an expression of praise, commendation or admiration" as a 'complement', all you really express is your inability to distinguish two similar but distinct words.

Picture by Lindsay

'Complement' with an e has a bunch of meanings (some highly technical), but the basic sense of "that which completes or makes perfect" is the most common: That wine really complements the roast. Unfortunately, it often shows up where the writer meant to use 'compliment' instead.

If you have trouble remembering the difference, try this trick:

A compliment with an 'i' is something I would always be glad to receive.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.



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