“These workshops are a great compliment to our Do It Yourself Website Promotion Programme”. This is straight from a website I visited this week which was advertising internet marketing workshops. But it turns out they are NOT free! It should of course be ‘complement’ but a tiny error with the i and e changes the whole meaning of this statement.
So when do we use Complement or Compliment? I get disappointed when a restaurant offers me a complimentary glass of wine which turns out not to be free drink, just nice to have with the meal I have chosen. We know that complementary therapies work well together and a complementary therapist is not offering free treatment (except the one I found in Devon last year who sign was wrongly spelled! ) And if I say something nice about you I am paying you a compliment.
Complement and compliment are very different words which have the unfortunate problem of sounding the same. So many adverts, mail shots and press releases get them the wrong way round…perhaps because they have been dictated over the phone?….So next time you are writing a report, a letter or advert please check that you are using the right word. Customers make judgements about people’s attention to detail in their written communications and once published you can’t put it right. I have rather unfairly made a judgement about the writer of the website quoted above!