Author: Ian McAllister
Compare and Contrast essays are obvious but…
Purpose of the essay
Alright, I know that the purpose of the essay is to get marks for yourself, but you should think a little further. Click here to get my free book about how to write the fun way.
How will the essay be marked? If you are an agriculture student and are asked to compare and contrast the effects of soil deficiencies in Selenium and in Copper you must have the facts. The examiner will have a list of facts that should appear in your essay, with marks written opposite each fact. About 2 marks may be allowed for unexpected facts and presentation, so getting the facts right is most important.
However, you will have been given the facts in a lecture, so it is mostly a case of going through your notes. If you are lucky you might hear a relevant fact in the news, or see it on the Web, and get these extra two marks.
If you are writing compare and contrast essays for English, the facts are much less important, and your presentation is very important.
You probably have most of the facts already, but it never does any harm to do a quick search on the Internet.
Next step is to brainstorm the subject to prepare a brain map,
Try to think from other points of view. For instance if you are asked to compare and contrast spring and autumn, try thinking from the point of view of someone who has just emigrated from the Sahara desert, or from a jungle in the monsoon region. If you have time to get parents or friends to brainstorm with you that will help bring in other points of view
Choose point of view
Unless you are writing purely factual compare and contrast essays you will want to make your essay different from the one that all your classmates will write. A different point of view is one possibility to make it more interesting.
There are two conventional ways of writing compare and contrast essays. You can write everything about the first subject, then write everything about the second subject. This tends to feel like two essays tacked together.
Or you can write all the comparisons and contrasts for each feature in turn.
I have read a very interesting (to me) compare and contrast essay about two types of hazelnut. It was written in the first person singular. The introduction was probably too long for normal compare and contrast essays, going into all the reasons why the writer had investigated the subject, but you could use just a paragraph or two yourself.
As you will have discovered from my book, I like to get the word “I” into my essays as much as possible, and that is what happened in the hazelnut essay. It used the second pattern, with each feature being dealt with completely in turn.
Starting your compare and contrast essays
The conventional way to start compare and contrast essays is to discuss the reasons for the exercise, and to give a summary of your findings. Another way would be to draw a table listing your summary in two columns. Probably it would still be a good idea to write a couple of sentences to lead into your essay from the table.
Consider too whether or not the essay is meant to persuade. If it is, you should include a summary of benefits (what’s in it for me? Why should I read on?) not just of features.
Body of your compare and contrast essays
Be consistent. If you intend to write an objective essay, don’t bring personalities into it, and don’t use loaded words.
If you are writing about the difference between execution methods from the point of view of someone on death row, by all means use all the loaded words that you like!
Ending your compare and contrast essays
Unless you have written an extremely unorthodox essay you would probably be best to end your essay in the conventional way, with your summary and conclusions.
Don’t be terrified of essays
I used to be, but I’ll try to show you in this site how to discover the fun and excitement of writing any kind of writing that you think you can persuade someone to read. Any excuse will do!
I wrote the book originally to help my daughter, but the real reason was that I am hooked on writing, and will grab any opportunity to write. Considering that I used to be terrified of writing, that is a big change.