Content vs. Contents: What’s The Difference?

moving_boxes_contentsA colleague who was helping a family member move brought up content vs. contents. In her role as a technology expert, she deals with content in terms of words and images incorporated into websites, blogs and other electronic media.

But as a moving helper, she was dealing with the contents of a house and garage.

My google search proved that a seemingly direct word really is anything but. Here’s what I discovered:

content / contents (noun, sometimes plural): something contained
pronounced: CON tent

If you consider the contained element as a whole, use content:

The content of his speech gave me inspiration.
Cured meats generally have a high salt content.

His home page content was too detailed.
The movie producer wanted content that was more entertaining.

If you consider the contained elements to be separate, use contents:

We loaded the contents of the garage into the truck.
How many chapters did you include in your table of contents?

content (adjective): a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction
pronounced: con TENT

I am content to stay home this rainy evening.
She was content with her clerical position.

content (verb): to bring about a state of happiness or satisfaction
pronounced: con TENT

Her reply seemed to content him.
He wanted a new car but had to content himself with a preowned model.

As I often say, is it any wonder English is considered a confusing language?

If you’re content with the content of this blog, consider sharing it with friends, colleagues or clients.

For answers to your everyday grammar questions — words, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation — check out Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor. It slips easily into a backpack, book bag or purse and is full of easy-to-understand examples that could be perfect not only for you, but  for the student, employees, friends, colleagues or clients in your life. Contact me for discounts on orders of 10 or more books.

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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