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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (September 13, 2008)

A Compliment to Complement

What is wrong with the following? "The new dress will compliment your earrings." Now, it is true that the sentence is a compliment (expression of esteem) but it should read, "The new dress will complement (go well with) your earrings."

A compliment is "an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; especially : an admiring remark." (Merriam Webster Dictionary). However, to complement is "something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect."

Because the two words are pronounced identically, it is hard to know the difference when writing. It will be a compliment to your knowledge of English if you do it right and will surely complement your already vast knowledge if you learn the difference!


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