Guide: How to write a compare and contrast essay

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  • Subject area(s): Types of essay
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  • Published on: December 5, 2019
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  • Tags: Guide
  • How to write a compare and contrast essay
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For a compare and contrast essay, the writer looks at two things and the ways in which they are similar and different.

Thesis

A strong thesis statement for a compare and contrast essay names the things that are being compared and contrasted and the aspects of those things that are being compared and contrasted. Here’s an example:

Millertown’s beaches are similar to Sunnydale’s beaches in popularity, but the two differ in the activities available and scenery.

A thesis statement might also go a step further and make a value judgment about those aspects:

Millertown’s beaches and Sunnydale’s beaches are equally popular, but Millertown has better beaches because it offers catamarans and bicycles for rent and is prettier.

The aspects should be mentioned in the same order they are discussed in the paper.

Organization

Organization is key in compare and contrast essays. Generally, compare and contrast essays should be organized in one of two ways.

The first way is sometimes called the point-by-point method. In this method, the writer organizes by aspect or point. For the above thesis example, the writer would first write about the popularity of each beach, then about the activities available on each beach and finally about the scenery at each beach.

The second way is sometimes called the block or chunk method. In this method, the writer would discuss all the aspects of the first thing and then all the aspects of the second thing. For the beach thesis, the writer would first write about the popularity, activities and scenery at Millertown’s beaches and then about those same aspects at Sunnydale’s beaches. The danger of this method is that the writer may end up simply describing each of the items without really drawing out the comparison and contrast. To avoid this, it’s best to use language that shows comparative relationships such as “in contrast to Millertown’s beaches” and “like Sunnydale’s beaches.”

Tone

The tone of a compare and contrast essay is generally that of formal academic writing even when the topic itself is fairly informal such as the above example of comparing two beaches. This means that writers should avoid slang and referring to themselves. Most importantly, they should not use “you” or address the reader directly.

Conclusion

The conclusion to a compare and contrast essay should reinforce the essay’s main points. The writer should avoid repeating the thesis word-for-word but should convey the same idea.

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