Compare and Contrast Essay

As the title might suggest to you and whether you know how to write a compare and contrast essay or not the task involves taking two subjects (or objects) and comparing them. Therefore, the items being compared must have sufficient likenesses and differences for you to be able to build a meaningful discussion around them. What you are comparing may take the form of a topic for an essay where, say, you might be asked to compare two ideas or discuss them. For instance, if the topic is history-related, you may be asked to talk about the differences or similarities between ancient Roman and Greek societies. A physics-related topic might ask you to compare two different types of exercise.

Third Person Voice

However, no matter what compare and contrast essay topics you are writing about, essays of this type usually use the third person voice (she, he, her, him, they, their, them, it or its). However, you may use terms like “we can see” i.e. the first person where this seems appropriate.

Grammar and Language Usage

  • Language should be impersonal and formal.
  • It is permissible to use technical or specialist language when appropriate to the topic.
  • Compound and complex sentences are permissible.
  • Examples and evidence should be incorporated into sentences.
  • You will see from compare and contrast essay examples that abbreviations, contractions and slang should be avoided.
  • Past tense/action verbs can be used to summarize or retell events e.g. accepted, displayed, examined, witnessed, etc.
  • Sometimes, it is permissible to use present tense when describing scenes or providing examples.
  • Use a mix of past, future, and present tense as befits the circumstances.
  • Use a language style that suits comparative writing. For instance, the following words are often used for comparing (explaining similarities): as, like, commonly, similarly. Words used for contrasting (explaining differences) often include: although, while, however, conversely, on the other hand, contrary to, etc.

Essay Organization and Structure

One effective way for a writer to organize their thoughts before starting to write is to use a graphic aid like a ‘comparative’ map or a ‘Venn’ diagram. These help draw attention to likenesses and differences. Additionally, there are several ways an essay of this type can be structured, such as:

  • Point-to-point: With this method, one puts forward one point for both sides before going on to the following one.
  • Similarity-to-difference: Here, the writer shows how the two items under comparison are (first) alike and (secondly) different.
  • Whole-to-whole: In this method, one topic is described first, then the next.

The Introductory Paragraph

  • Describes key points/terms
  • Sets out essay’s contention e.g. states writer’s position in relation to question or statement
  • Offers some background information on the items or subjects being examined
  • Should state precise purpose and order of essay. Possibly do this by drawing attention to main likenesses and differences.
  • You can finish writing a comparative essay introduction with a final sentence that leads into the first paragraph of the body text.

The Body Paragraphs

  • Use TEAL or TEEL format to construct body paragraphs
  • A topic sentence should be used to open each body paragraph
  • If you are using the similarity-to-difference or point-to-point method, describe one topic first and then the second. Analysis can start with the second subject description, showing the likenesses or differences from the first subject topic, or you can do this after the second topic description
  • Any argument(s) should be linked backwards to the opening contention or onwards towards the next paragraph in the body.

The Concluding Paragraph

  • May be started with “to conclude” or similar words
  • Refers back to contention and re-iterates it, summarizing all key points
  • Generally recaps on the most prominent likenesses or similarities.

Therefore, in essence, this is how to write a compare and contrast essay.