Having trouble figuring out how to write your compare and contrast essay? Don’t worry about it; you are not alone. This is one of the trickiest types of paper to write with everything from the structure to the content being hard to understand. To make your life easier, here is a comprehensive guide on how to tackle the challenge. That way, whether you are comparing iconic leaders or contemporary references, you will know exactly what you are doing.
Compare vs. Contrast. Understand the Difference
Before we delve into the tips and tricks on how to write a good compare and contrast essay, it is important to understand the difference between the two terms. It is common for people to use the word ‘compare’ to cover both meanings. I did just that at the end of the previous paragraph. While it is not exactly an unforgivable grammatical sin, it is something that could cause you some confusion when trying to figure out what to write. To put it in the simplest possible terms, comparing refers to identifying similarities whereas contrasting means pointing out differences.
10 Tips for Writing Your Essay
You now understand the difference between compare and contrast and that is awesome. However, there is so much more to these essays than this comprehension. So how do you write an amazing compare and contrast paper? Here are ten tips that will help.
Pick your topic wisely
This tip only applies if you have the freedom to decide what to write about. More often than not, these assignments are fixed. However, if your teacher gives you room to choose, there is one key factor to consider. The topic you pick should be evaluating two subjects that have a lot in common but that are also distinct entities. A good example would be comparing and contrasting two popular fast food joints. A bad option would be an essay on a fast food joint and a juice bar.
A list for organization won’t hurt
Another important tip is to get your facts straight before getting started on the essay. You don’t want to get halfway through the article only to find that you missed some important points. Here, the best thing to do is to organize your thoughts into lists. Yeah, it’s that simple. Make a list of the key features that the two subjects have in common and another two lists of unique aspects. This will also help you decide which points are stronger for a well-organized essay.
Back up your views with facts
A common mistake that students make when writing compare and contrast essays is basing it on the opinion which is opposed to facts. Don’t follow this wrong path. The papers should be based on hard evidence. Let’s take our fast food chain scenario as an example. Instead of focusing on what you think about each, try and find as many independent facts as possible. This gives your arguments more strength and legitimacy and makes it easier for readers to draw their conclusions. With this particular tip, nothing works better than statistics. So include some numbers and facts and your paper will be a gem.
Stick to the writing format you choose
There are many different writing formats when it comes to compare and contrast essays. You could choose to exhaust all points on one subject first before focusing on the second. You may opt for the tandem format where you describe related features of the two in one paragraph. On the other hand, you could settle for the alternate method where you describe subject A in one paragraph, Subject B in the next then back to Subject A and so on.
The choice is entirely up to you unless otherwise specified by the teacher. The important thing is to ensure that you stick to it. For example, if you decide to alternate then do not go explaining different points in the same paragraph. It makes your work disorganized and difficult to follow.
Always start with the weighty points
This is important if you are discussing subjects with very limited information. The best thing to do is give stronger points priority. Discuss these in detail before mentioning the less important points. Let’s go back to our fast food example. Imagine that you are comparing and contrasting two burger joints. Do not start by describing something trivial like the differences/similarities in napkin quality. Start with weighty points like the food quality, quantity and customer service.
Being similar doesn’t mean being duplicate
Many people believe that for subject features to be considered similar, they must be identical. This is another very common misconception with compare and contrast essays which is completely incorrect. This may sound unusual, but there is nothing wrong with having some degree of contrast in the subject likeness. To put things in perspective, consider the fast food restaurant evaluation example. If you were to compare the two hypothetical burger spots again, something like high-quality, tasty patties could qualify as a similarity. However, this likeness does not mean that the qualities are exact.
Do not be biased
Remember that this is not a persuasive essay. You are not trying to convince your reader of anything. It is therefore very important for you to remain as unbiased as you can. Present your points giving each side an equal fighting chance. After that, just let the facts speak for themselves.
This tip is particularly important in the conclusion section. Many students tend to use this part to make a declaration of what side they think is better. This is wrong. The conclusion section should equally summarize the good, the bad, and the ugly on either side.
Avoid redundancy in the conclusion
The conclusion part should mention key points in the body but not word-for-word of the rest of the article. Find ways to put across the main features without sounding repetitive. You could use synonyms to describe qualities or general terms to cover multiple points at once. This gives your article great flow and shows that you know exactly what you are doing.
You can never have too many transitory phrases and words
With compare and contrast articles, transitory words and phrases are a must-have. Terms like ‘in addition to,’ ‘unlike,’ ‘on the contrary’ and others like them make a big difference with these essays. They facilitate the coherent flow of the content and help create links between the two subjects being discussed so do not shy away from using as you want but don’t go overboard and have an essay overburdened with transitory statements.
As with any other essay, proofread before submission
Finally, always proofread your work. This advice might seem like something obvious, but it is a commonly neglected aspect when writing compare and contrast articles. With these essays, proofreading allows you to confirm the content flow. That way if there is some disconnection between the discussion points it will be easy to find and correct the issue. It is of course, also vital to proofread your work to identify any grammatical errors. This is very important especially for students as a spelling error here and a punctuation mistake there might be what keeps you from getting that well-deserved good grade.
The Bottom Line
With all these tips and tricks, you should be able to write an amazing compare and contrast essay. The most important hack is to ensure that you have your ideas well organized before you start writing. Trust me that one little list will make all the difference.