Writing Tip: Compliment vs. Complement

Writing Tip: Compliment vs. Complement

Homophones can definitely be tricky.  What is a homophone?  It’s a word that has the same pronunciation as another word but has an entirely different meaning.  Two examples of homophones are “compliment” and “complement.”  They sound the same, but they are spelled differently and have different meanings.  Let’s see how to use them properly.

The term “compliment” refers to a remark that is flattering.  For example, if a person tells you that they like your shoes, that is a compliment.


John rewarded Jenny with one compliment after the other about her appearance during the date.

The term “complement” has nothing to do with a flattering remark.  Instead, “complement” refers to a couple of things:

1. a full set or crew

2. when things go well together


The ship’s complement included 1,400 sailors.

Good whiskey is the perfect complement to a fine cigar.

Since “compliment” and “complement” are so similar, they are often misused.  If you are guilty of this, you’re not alone.

Here’s a quick tip on how to remember the difference if you get stuck.  “Compliment” is with an “I”, so remember the phrase:

 “I love giving compliments.”

When you say “compliment,” put some extra emphasis on the “I” to help you remember the aforementioned phrase.

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