Editor-Tip Tuesday: Complement vs. Compliment

Have I mentioned that I’m an editor for a living? I thought I’d share a few editing tips from time to time. They’ll just be quick, simple hits – things you can commit to memory if you want, or things you can just throw out the window if you prefer.

Here’s one that seems to slip by a lot of people:


These have different meanings.

Complement (with an “e”) has a connotation of completing (I remember this one as “compleeeeeting” so I’ll spell it with an “e”):

  • The throw pillows complement the living room.
  • His tie complements his suit.
  • The husband and wife have complementary careers.

 Compliment (with an “i”) denotes praise, and always comes from a human being:

  • She was flattered by Jim’s compliment.
  • Someone complimented him on his tie.

 The one that means “free” is also the “i”: Throw in some complimentary tickets and I’ll be there!

Happy Tuesday!

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5 thoughts on “Editor-Tip Tuesday: Complement vs. Compliment

  1. This one was simple to master—the “e” in complement connotating “complete” was a great way to remember the rule. (If only meiosis and mitosis had been that simple!)

    Brief refreshers in small, digestible doses are good—and fun—for some of us, anyway! Keep ’em coming…

  2. Thanks – I love simple and fun facts! I’m with Barbara, keep ’em coming… =)

  3. Really? You guys like these? I actually had this as a draft forever but hadn’t posted because I thought I’d scare everyone away with my schoolmarm tendencies. But I can certainly keep ’em coming. I’ve only got a million of ’em. …

  4. That really puts a few of us in a certain category, doesn’t it? Ha ha!

    Ditto, Michele! Can’t remember the name of it, but I used to love learning Latin words in Ms. Lionello’s class. : )

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