Resources for Faulty Comparisons


Writing Lab PowerPoints

Rules for Faulty Comparisons

 Degrees of adjective and adverbs (modifiers)  
 POSITIVE  COMPARATIVE  SUPERLATIVE
 friendly  friendlier  friendliest
 lonely  lonelier  loneliest
 eager  more eager  most eager
 efficient  more efficient  most efficient
 good  better  best
 bad  worse  worst

There are a number of other unacceptable forms as well as problems with comparisons:

1.  Use -er or -est for most adjectives with one or two syllables.

Wrong:  I am more lonely than she is.

Revised:  I am lonelier than she is.

2.  Use more or most for most adjectives with two or more syllables.

Wrong:  Benny is the eagerest student Ms. Johnson has.

Revised:  Benny is the most eager student Ms. Johnson has.

3.  Double comparisons occur when the degree of the modifier is changed incorrectly by adding both -er and more or -est and most.

Wrong: Doris is more friendlier than her brother.

Revised: Doris is friendlier than her brother.

4.  The misuse of the superlative occurs when a comparison is made between two things or people and the superlative form is used incorrectly.

Wrong: Of the two textbooks, the oldest edition is the best.

Revised: Of the two textbooks, the older edition is better.

5.  The superlative is also used incorrectly when it is combined with any other, meaning "only one" or with all the others, thereby excluding the compared item from its category. For example, the sentence below suggests that Montreal is the largest of one city.

Unacceptable: Montreal is the largest of any other city in Canada. (Can Montreal be the largest of one city?)

Revised: Montreal is the largest of all the cities in Canada.

6.  Illogical comparisons occur when there is an implied comparison between two things that are not actually being compared or that cannot logically be compared.

Illogical: The interest at a loan company is higher than a bank.

Revised: The interest at a loan company is higher than that at a bank.

Revised: The interest at a loan company is higher than a bank's.

7.  Ambiguous comparisons occur when elliptical words (those omitted) create for the reader more than one interpretation of the sentence.

Ambiguous: I like Nancy better than you.

Revised: I like Nancy better than I like you.

Revised: I like Nancy better than you do.

8.  Incomplete comparisons occur when the basis of the comparison (the two categories being compared) is not explicitly stated.

Incomplete: Watching television is more interesting. (Than what?)

Revised: Watching television is more interesting than reading books.

9.  Omission of other, any, and else: Do not omit the words other, any, or else when comparing one thing or person with a group of which it/he is a part.

Unacceptable: Joan writes better than any student in her class. (Joan is a student in the class. Does she write better than herself?)

Revised: Joan writes better than any other student in her class.

If the superlative is intended, use the following: Joan is the best writer in her class.

10.  Omission of as: Do not omit as when making a point of equal or superior
comparison using as . . . as.

Unacceptable: The University of West Florida is as large or larger than the University of North Florida.

Revised: The University of West Florida is as large as or larger than the University of North Florida.

Further, in such comparisons as the following, all one need do is omit the italicized phrase to see why the comparison is faulty.

Unacceptable: This is one of the best, if not the best, college in this country. (The problem is that one of the best requires the plural word colleges, not college. Such sentences need to be rewritten.)

Revised: This is one of the best colleges in this country, if not the best.