Almost every student writing in English will, at some point, be asked to write what is called a “compare and contrast essay.” This style of essay is designed to bring out the similarities or differences of each individual thing by comparing them to each other. What does it need to include? Here’s our quick two-step guide on understanding and writing you compare and contrast essay.
Step 1: Why are you comparing these two things?
When comparing two different things, you ultimately want to be able to find out what is the common element of both that makes them worth comparing. For instance, if you are comparing two different shades of blue, the point of that comparison is clearly because they’re both blue to begin with.
We generally don’t compare or contrast things that have absolutely nothing in common.
Before you begin your compare and contrast essay, you’ll want to find out why the two things have been compared to each other in the first place.
Some common reasons are:
Both are novels/plays/poems/movies about the same thing, but approach the topic differently. For example, both might be about love, but tackle the subject in very different ways.
Both are the same type of thing, but function differently. For example, we might compare and contrast two different forms of social media; both of them might be social apps, but one might be for videos (like Tik Tok) and one might be for images/filters (like Snapchat).
Both are from the same place, but are nonetheless different. For example, both might be from Australia, but they are different things from Australia, but their geographical origin is the reason we are comparing and contrasting them.
Both are by the same person or family. For example, we might compare different books by the same author, or we might compare literature written by mothers and daughters or we might compare the acting careers of different actors simply because they are related to each other.
So whatever the connection, you need your introductory paragraph to have some sort of statement explaining why you are comparing and contrasting the two things you are comparing and contrasting.
Step 2: How will you organise your comparison?
Once you know why you are comparing the two things you are comparing, then you’ll want to stick to a structure that allows your reader to follow along with you. Let’s say that you are comparing Pizza to Spaghetti. You then might want to compare and contrast their popularity or their nutritional value or their regional differences or their variations or their preparation methods. Then what you will want to do is think about structure.
Option 1: ABAB – In this option, you organise your body paragraphs in such a way that you focus on one thing (i.e. spaghetti) first; then in the next paragraph, you switch to something about the next thing (i.e. pizza). In this fashion you alternate back-and-forth between the two things.
Option 2: AABB – In this option, you organise your body paragraphs in such a way that you first talk about the elements of the first item (i.e. spaghetti) in its own body paragraphs, before moving on to discuss how the features you’ve just illustrated about the first item are similar or different from the second item (i.e. pizza).
Now…just to get you hungry thinking about spaghetti and pizza, why don’t you do the quiz below for fun?
Remember when you are asked to compare or contrast something, you first must find a reason WHY you are comparing them in the first place, and then decide how to organise your thoughts.
The rest is easy…easy like pie, pizza pie!
Useful samples and examples: