I’m not entirely sure how I got a reputation for being a grammar Nazi. Yes, I have a master’s degree in writing. Yes, I was a proofreader before becoming a copywriter/copyeditor. And yes, I take a reasonable amount of satisfaction in pointing out grammar and punctuation mistakes in menus, signage, and the media. But I’m not one of “those people,” meaning I never correct my friends’ written or verbal mistakes.
I’m sure we’ve all been privy to these misuses before. My favorite is “I’ve made a complete 360-degree change in my life,” probably because I also have a reputation for being terrible at math. (I take slight umbrage to this reputation, by the way. Sure, I suffered through geometry back in the day, but I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide with the best of them.) I also appreciated seeing “home” vs. “hone,” a topic about which I’ve had many debates over the years.
But I’d like to add one to the list: “compliment” versus “complement.” People mistake these all the time. In one example from last week, I came across the following sentence: “They focus on residential maintenance and repair with complimentary companies like Mr. Rooter®, Mr. Electric®, and Mr. Appliance®.” Unfortunately, unless Mr. Rooter® provides its services for free—which is highly unlikely—or floods its customers with effusive praise, it’s not a “complimentary” company. It’s “complementary”—or a counterpart—to Mr. Electric® and Mr. Appliance®.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go curl up in the feeble position.
Favorite word of the week: umbrage
Favorite song of the week: “Compliments,” by Band of Horses