How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

When you were in school, you probably had to write a lot of different types of essays. Many teachers like assigning essay topics to their students, as they help them learn how to express their thoughts and opinions in a structured way.

One popular type of composition is the compare and contrast essay. These essays may seem confusing at first, but they’re not that difficult once you understand what you’re supposed to do! Anyone can write a good compare and contrast essay if they have the right strategies.

Do you have a compare and contrast essay assignment coming up at school or in the workplace? Lucky for you, we have a comprehensive guide on how to write a compare and contrast essay. Read on to learn how to write an effective piece that’s sure to impress.

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

A compare and contrast essay is exactly like what it sounds– it is an essay that compares the similarities and contrasts the differences between two things. This type of essay structure works great for weighing pros and cons or comparing options for something.

Pretend, for example, you are writing about two different vacation resorts. In this essay, you would want to create an argument about both resorts (such as “Resort X is much better than Resort Y”) and set up the reader to know what you are discussing and why. From there, you would tell the reader all about each resort, their similarities, and their differences. This can help someone decide which resort is better for their specific needs, wants, and desires!

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

Now that you know what a compare and contrast essay is, you’ll want to learn exactly how to write one. This checklist and essay guide will help walk you through all of the steps you need for writing the perfect compare and contrast essay.

1. Start With the Intro and Thesis

The first thing that you need to do in a compare and contrast essay (as with most essays) is to determine your thesis or your argument for the essay.

When outlining your essay, this is what should start the outline. What is your argument? What are the subjects/objects that you are comparing and contrasting? Here is an example of a thesis:

If you are trying to search for the best resort in South Carolina, you could consider X resort or Y resort. While both are known for their customer service, X is known for blank and Y is known for blank.

You have set up the rest of your essay to be about comparing and contrasting the two resorts in these two sentences alone.

2. Chunk the Body of the Essay

The body of the essay is where the biggest chunk of words will be. You should have at least three paragraphs, though you may have many more depending on the topic or the requirements of the essay. In the body of the essay, you will discuss the similarities and differences between the two things you put in your thesis. You can set up the structure of your essay a couple of ways:

The Block Method

The Block Method is a type of writing that blocks different topics about each subject. Because this method discusses one thing at length and then another, it works best for shorter assignments, otherwise it can be easy to forget the points brought up in the first body paragraph. Here is an example of an essay structure using the block method:

Body Paragraph One Resort X

Cost

Food

Pool

Location

Body Paragraph Two Resort Y

Cost

Food

Pool

Location

Body Paragraph Three

Tie pervious the first two body topics together

Point By Point

In this writing method, you talk about similarities and differences of both topics in the same paragraph. For instance, if you are bringing up the costs for the two different resorts, you would say something like this:

While Y resort is cheaper, X resort offers a bit more for the money you may spend on the accommodation. On top of just the accommodation, X resort gives you free drinks as well as one free meal.

Both the similarities and differences are discussed in the same part of the essay, side-by-side. The next part of the essay would have a different point about the two resorts side-by-side. Here is an example of what that would look like for our resort example:

Body Paragraph 1– Costs at Resort A vs. Resort B

Body Paragraph 2– Food at Resort A vs. Resort B

Body Paragraph 3– Pool at Resort A. vs. Resort B

Body Paragraph 4– Location at Resort A vs. Resort B

3. Wrap It Up With the Conclusion

Once you have the introduction and the body of the essay, you need to wrap it all up. Restate a few of the important points you made in the body of the essay but keep the conclusion short– you should get your point across without restating everything, and leave your reader with a strong impression of your arguments.

The Process of How to Write an Essay

Now that you know what goes into a compare and contrast essay, you may want to know the process behind writing one. What is the best approach? Are there methods to make it easier to write? Here are some steps to get you started.

1. Brainstorm

Brainstorming is the first step you need to take when writing an essay. If you aren’t familiar, brainstorming is the process by which you write down everything that comes to mind about both of your topics and organize it later. To organize your thoughts, many people find it helpful to create a venn diagram.

2. Create an Outline

Once you have your ideas on paper, you can look at your brainstorming to structure the essay. This is where you decide how you want to write the introduction, body, and conclusion of the essay. Your teacher may dictate your essay’s structure (point by point, block method, etc), or they may allow you to organize it how you like. No matter what structure your compare and contrast essay takes, it’s important to keep it organized by using a well-thought-out essay outline.

3. Write the First Draft

Once you know how to outline the essay, you can start writing! Your initial attempts may be rough, but just get started following the points of your essay outline. If you find some areas have too much information and others have way too little, you may need to retool your essay structure, find more supporting points, or even choose a new point to make. No good essay is written in the very first attempt, so think of your revisions as part of the improvement process and not as a failure.

4. Revise and Proofread

After you write your essay, you should always proofread it! If you skip this step, your essay will not be at the point it should be for the final draft. Set your essay down for a bit and come back to read it later with fresh eyes, and have a friend or family member read it to make sure there aren’t any holes in your logic or arguments that seem confusing. Once you’ve corrected your essay for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors, and made revisions to any points that were weak or unclear, you’re ready to submit your final draft!

Examples of Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

While you may already have a specific subject to write about, sometimes you need some inspiration for things you can compare in an essay. If you can choose your own topic, here are some fun options to get started:

Writing about the pros and cons of two options

  • Travel via plane or travel via car

  • Solar energy versus energy from fossil fuels

Different times periods

  • The typical diet in the early 1900s versus the normal American diet in the 2000s

  • Fashion in the 1990s versus now

Opposing viewpoints or opinions

  • Using credit cards versus debit cards

  • Mcdonald’s versus Burger King

Looking for More English Help?

Feel like you know how to write a compare and contrast essay, but not-so-confident on some of your other English and grammar skills? We can help! Our English practice tests, study guides, and flashcards help you review basic concepts (or test your knowledge), so you’ll feel more prepared than ever for any test, essay, school assignment, or work project that you have to do in the future!

So what are you waiting for? Go get started on that essay!

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