Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

Word(s) of the Day: “complement” and “compliment”

Date: 04 November 2009
Category: Homophones, Special Words, Spelling, Vocabulary

Today we give you a “twofer.”

Complement” (to complete or to provide something felt to be lacking) has to be one of the most misspelled/misused words by non-writers and writers alike. It makes the Atlanta Freelance Writer cringe to see it, or its homophone, “compliment” (to congratulate) improperly applied. They are not interchangeable in any context.

Here are examples of proper grammatical usage:

The off-white scarf that she bought complemented her beige suit.

Her husband paid her a nice compliment when he told her the scarf matched her suit.

The pinot grigio wine nicely complements the saffron risotto entree.

The wine is compliments of the restaurant owner.

If you need a memory device for these two words, try thinking like this:

  • Compliment with an “i” is in the “eye” of the beholder paying the respect.
  • Complement with an “e” means that it “ends” or completes the picture.

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