The phrase ‘complete with’ is overused in construction product marketing and usually comes with an exaggerated or emphasised meaning. This goes against one of my mantras for writing about construction products – be objective. The meaning that is usually intended is actually at odds with the conventional, dictionary definition of the word. In my view this erodes trust with your reader.
Definitions of the phrase ‘complete with’
‘Complete’, as an adjective, means:
- having all the necessary or appropriate parts. ‘a complete list of courses offered by the university’
- (often used for emphasis) to the greatest extent or degree; total.
The definition of ‘Complete with’ in the Oxford Dictionary, is the usage I see as problematic:
“Having something as an additional part or feature: the detachable keyboard comes complete with numeric keypad.”
It is usually used in reference to accessories a product can be supplied with. These are often optional extras or features that are included in addition to the essential basic qualities of the product. I was quite surprised to read what I see as a ‘bad’ definition in the Oxford Dictionary, but it is simply reflecting how the phrase is used in reality.
Examples of the phrase ‘complete with’
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
A comprehensive collection of paving complete with a choice of finishes.
This is the sort of phrase that appears frequently in construction product marketing. Is the collection ‘complete’ with finishes? The product is not incomplete without a choice of finishes – it can be installed and perform adequately in some applications. What about colours, a guarantee or associated installation products? (Guarantees are another thing that are often described as ‘completing’ a product.)
An ultra-high security fence complete with anti-climb razor wire.
Is the fence really ‘complete’ when anti-climb razor wire is attached to the top? This additional accessory will provide the right level of security for certain specific applications. For others, barbed wire, electric wire or rotating spikes will be more appropriate. In many cases, the budget will determine the level of security that can be attained.
Avoid the phrase ‘complete with’!
The phrase ‘complete with’ is frequently used to add emphasis but it doesn’t add any extra meaning. This extra emphasis is unnecessary in my opinion and only serves to erode trust with your reader.
The idea that a product is “complete” is abstract – it’s entirely dependent on the needs of the user or the circumstances of the application.
Macmillan defines ‘complete with’ much more simply:
with the things mentioned.
I find that in the context of construction products, this is a more accurate definition. The phrase just means ‘with’.
‘Complete with’ is often a misuse of the word ‘complete’. The idea that a product is somehow complete when it is supplied with additional things is subjective. There is is not even any need for this extra word to convey meaning. The phrase would be better replaced by ‘with’ or’ has’.
The points I make about this phrase are the same mantras I have mentioned in many of my other posts on writing tips
- Be objective in your product descriptions.
- Don’t exaggerate in your product information.
- Seek to gain trust, not to erode it, through your writing