I always get a word spelling error when I type my emails regarding screen comps. Screen comps, if you don't know, are a visual representation of a web design or the like. Does anybody know how to spell this. It feels like it isn't a word, but I hear and see it quite a bit, so it feels like it is a word now.


I assumed it was in reference to Screen Composition, but I haven't ever seen it referenced. When I do a Google search on it, nothing comes up that refers to what I know as a comp.

Edit 2

When people refer to screen comp, are they referring to a composition? If yes, how do you know?

  • I've never seen the term "screen comp" and I work in that industry in the US. What country are you in? Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:28
  • I work in the US as well. West coast, so that might be the issue. I hear it all day long. Usage: Has the client sent over comps yet or are we still waiting.
    – whoacowboy
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:29
  • 2
    Screen comp is a shortening of Screen Composition. A lot of abbreviations aren't recognized by spelling dictionaries.
    – Marcus_33
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:33
  • @Marcus_33 That is what I assumed, but I haven't ever seen it referenced. When I do a Google search on it, nothing comes up that refers to what I know as a comp.
    – whoacowboy
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:36
  • 2
    Please add your assumptions to your question. Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:38

3 Answers 3


Comps appears from Google Books to have emerged in the 1940s out of ad-agency jargon. The earliest use I've found is this:

The illustrations in “Advertising Layout” are the work of the five top advertising artists in America. Many of the layouts shown are the original “roughs” and “comps” directly from the visualizer’s drawing board. – ad for Advertising Layout by Richard S. Chenault in the magazine Advertising & Selling, 1946.

Putting the term in quotes suggests that it was a relatively novel use then. Earlier uses of comps in these contexts refer to people, the compositors.

When I took a course in layout back in the 60s the standard sequence for developing a (print) design was Sketch, Rough, Comp (the first stage you show a client), Final. In my shop today we never see a “sketch” or a “rough” – a website designer just produces three or four suggested “designs” and the client picks one that's tweaked and serves as the basis for the final. But they're pretty much what we called “comps” in my youth, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the term has lingered in other shops.

I remembered this as a short form of “composition”; but I now find that Wikipedia defines the term otherwise:

In graphic design and advertising, a comprehensive layout or comprehensive, usually shortened to comp, is the page layout of a proposed design as initially presented by the designer to a client, showing the relative positions of text and illustrations before the final content of those elements has been decided upon. The comp thus serves as a draft of the final layout, and (if approved) is used as guide for further design changes and, ultimately, production.


"Comp" is an informal but perfectly acceptable shortening of several different words, which arise in a number of situations/meanings:

  • "comparative value" - when listing your house for sale, one of the first things to do is check the comps - the recent sale prices of similar houses/properties in the area

  • "comprehension" - in Python tutorials I've seen "list comp", and in education I've seen "reading comp"

  • "competition" - "We're going to the State comps!"

  • "composition" - I suspect this is the basis of your particular usage.

In short, if your spell-checker doesn't recognize "comp", you should feel free to add it to your spell-checker's dictionary and use it with a clear conscience - as long as the recipient of your email understands you, of course.


This is not “too localized” but it is possibly “general reference”. Websters New World¹, InfoPlease², Dictionary.com³, TheFreeDictionary.com, and Wiktionary all attest comp as an abbreviation for composition.

A good tool for conforming the existence of a word and what it might mean is OneLook.com.

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