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Grammar pop quiz: Everyone Likes a Compliment/Complement


Everyone enjoys some sincere praise now and then (not the syrupy fake kind, please!) and it requires so little effort to make others a bit happier. Recognizing a job that's well-done or some snazzy shoes adds a little smile to everyone's day.


Not that you're going to write the word while giving the praise, but which is it? Complement or compliment? Why on earth are there two completely different words with completely different meanings that are so darned similar? Okay, that last question requires way more research than we'll go into here, but I can help with separating the two, along with a trick that helps me to keep them straight.


Quick answer:

The correct answer is "b) I try to give at least one compliment per day."


Long answer:

Complement, according to Merriam-Webster, is "something that fills up, completes, or makes better or perfect."

This biscotti is the perfect complement to the coffee.

You write the pitch, Jane will do the graphics, and I'll present it. Our skills really complement each others'.


Compliment, again crediting m-w.com, is "an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration."

She complimented your report during the meeting.

I've heard many compliments on the cake you brought in to share!


Tip time! To check your spelling, think "complete"... if you are completing something, with that "e" in the spelling and in the pronunciation, then you are "complementing" it.

If you are not completing it, then use the "i" spelling and compliment it, which is very kind of you!

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