Common writing mistakes: compliment vs. complement

FREE (as in compliment vs. complement)Introducing the first in a new series of mini blog posts about common writing mistakes.

The difference between compliment vs. complement is one that catches a lot of people out. I often see them used incorrectly, as in “complimentary therapies”, “complementary tickets” or even “with complements”.

So here’s a quick reminder in case it sometimes causes you confusion too…

Compliment vs. complement

COMPLIMENT (n) = polite expression of praise, commendation or admiration, e.g. you pay someone a compliment

COMPLIMENT (v) = to admire or praise someone for something, e.g. you compliment someone on a job well done

COMPLIMENTARY (adj) = expressing a compliment; given or supplied free of charge

Extract from estate agency leafletCOMPLEMENT (n) = something that contributes extra features to something else so as to enhance or improve it, e.g. a fine wine is the perfect complement to a good meal

COMPLEMENT (v) = to add to in a way that enhances or improves, e.g. wine complements cheese

COMPLEMENTARY (adj) = combining in such a way as to form a complete whole or enhance each other, e.g. we have different but complementary skills

Therefore, the correct form that should have been used on this leaflet from my local corner shop is “complement”.

Top tips

A good way to remember which one to use is that complement helps makes something more ‘complete’, both of which are spelt with an |e| (plus they share the same first six letters).

Or you could remember that compliment has an |i| because you might tell someone they have nice eyes!

Hopefully this short post has helped you understand the difference between compliment vs. complement, and to learn which one to use when.

Any other common writing mistakes you’d like me to cover in future? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to oblige.

(FREE image courtesy of Stuart Miles via

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2 comments on “Common writing mistakes: compliment vs. complement
  1. Yuri says:

    I like the tips to avoid these mistakes. They are nice complements of this post so I want to compliment you about it

    • Geraldine says:

      I’m delighted that you found them useful! You clearly understand the different usages, as your use of “complement/compliment” is spot on 🙂

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