How to use the verb "comprise"

This is a sentence I saved from a piece I edited a while ago:

Folds, along with Steve Willard and Eddie Walker, comprise the three-piece band who sing songs with titles like, “Really Gross Kid” and “King of the Bugs.”

The sentence has problems. Can you spot them before you read further or hit the Read More?

First, the verb (comprise) is plural and the subject is singular (Folds). An intervening phrase such as this one beginning with "along with" does not affect the number of the verb.

(You might also wonder about the number agreement in "band who sing," but usage experts say that collective nouns such as band can be singular or plural. And you might also not want to use the pronoun "who" to refer to a band.)

But comprise is the wrong verb anyway. Comprise means to include or contain. So this sentence is saying that Folds contains the three-piece band. What the writer wanted to say is that Folds, Willard and Walker make up (or compose or constitute) the three-piece band.

Remember that the whole comprises the parts. So a band comprises a guitarist, a pianist and a drummer, for instance. The parts compose the whole. So a guitarist, a pianist and a drummer compose a band.

And, despite its irritating ubiquity, the phrase "is comprised of" is always poor usage.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.