Quick & Easy Content Writing Tips: Compliment vs. Complement

August 07, 2018

I have to admit…this one can be a real bitch. They sound exactly the same when pronounced, you change one letter for spelling, but the meanings are completely different. And trying to remember which one to use at the right time can lead to more than a few embarrassing moments when your goal is to appear professional with an acute attention to detail.


Unlike some of the easier ones like further vs. farther or which vs. that, this one may require some practice.

Here is a breakdown that should help:


When the letter ‘i’ is used in the middle of the word, it means that you are expressing admiration about something, congratulating someone or giving praise. We all use this on a regular basis and know the word, but it is the spelling that causes the issue.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Don’t forget to say thank you if someone compliments your outfit.
  2. Her yellow dress looked so nice, he couldn’t help but give her a compliment.
  3. People driving by stopped to compliment him on his landscaping work. 


This is usually where it gets a little wonky for me. Exchange the ‘i’ for an ‘e’ and all hell breaks loose. When something “complements” something else, it means it adds value or enhances the overall effect. The idea is to remember that when the ‘e’ is used, the topic is making something better than it already is.

Here are a few examples:

  1. I am looking for someone that complements my lifestyle.
  2. The wine complemented the main course wonderfully.
  3. That yellow dress complements her complexion.

Bonus: Complimentary vs. Complementary

Just when you thought you had a handle on it, the adjectives come out and cause even more confusion!

Complimentary – this word has two different meanings, just to mess with your mind. It can act as an extension of “compliment” and express admiration, or it can refer to getting something for free!

  1. The vast majority of our clients are complimentary when talking about our content services.
  2. All of our new clients receive a complimentary (free) blog post when they first come aboard.

How ridiculous is that?

Complementary – this one is often used incorrectly to describe something that was free of charge, but the true meaning still deals with one thing improving or enhancing another.

  1. The writer and web designer have very different but complementary skills.
  2. This section displays complementary products to the ones you’ve purchased.

If you’d like to leave this sort of stuff to the professionals, so you can busy yourself with more productive tasks, get in touch with us today for a Free Consultation and we’ll give you the scoop about what we can do for you.

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