Essays that compare two (or more) things are very common. Many of the “extended response” questions on the New York State ELA tests are basically comparisons. Here are some tips.
Two Basic Structures
There are two common ways to organize a comparison: point-by-point or block.
A block style essay will have one section for each of the things to be compared. In the first section, you lay out all the facts about the first thing. In the second section, you tell all about the second thing. Two big blocks, one about each thing.
Example Block Comparison Outline
- Ferrari: speed, mileage, reliability, comfort.
- Lambourgini: speed, mileage, reliability, comfort
A point-by-point essay, talks about one trait at a time. If you were talking about cars, you could have a paragraph about speed. Your speed paragraph would tell us the speed of both cars. Point-by-point comparisons take some thought but can be much clearer.
Example Point-by-Point Comparison Outline
- Speed (Ferrari vs. Lambourgini)
- Mileage (Ferrari vs. Lambourgini)
- Reliability (Ferrari vs. Lambourgini)
- Comfort (Ferrari vs. Lambourgini)
Two Common Thesis Statements
Many comparison essays come down to whether two similar things are actually different or two different things are actually the same. It’s common to have thesis statements like these:
• Although A & B seem a lot alike, they are really very different.
• Although A & B seem very different, they are more the same than people think.
Although Mickey Mouse and Danger Mouse seem a lot alike, they have very different histories.
Although think that laptops and cell phones are very different, they are becoming more and more alike every day.
Useful Linking Words for Comparison
When setting up comparisons, writers often use words like but, on the other hand, however, by comparison, where, compared to, up against, although, even though, meanwhile, in contrast…