Seven Most Important Features of a Compare and Contrast Essay

When asked to write a paper comparing and contrasting two different things or ideas, many might get nervous or even feel an approaching headache, but as with most writing tasks, the job tends to come together smoothly once it is broken down. There are seven things to include in this type of essay, and they will probably seem tauntingly obvious once viewed in this manner.

The first two concepts should be distinguished before anything else. Decide what two subjects you want to write about, and simply answer these questions:

  1. How can I describe Subject 1?
  2. How can I describe Subject 2?
  3. Let's say you are writing to compare and contrast pizza with cheeseburgers. How would you describe each of these things? Pizza is an Italian food made of cheese, sauce, and various toppings all layered on the dough and baked in an oven. Cheeseburgers are a classic American food consisting of a grilled hamburger patty, cheese, and various other toppings on a hamburger bun.

    Obviously, you should add more information based on what the assignment is asking of you. Keep describing what relates to these two subjects as necessary. After this, it's time to compare and contrast. List the following, again, as in-depth as your assignment requires:

  4. Identical characteristics that both subjects share.
  5. Opposing (or strikingly different) characteristics of both Subjects.
  6. Perhaps you would write down that pizza and cheeseburgers are both foods, both are versatile in a choice of toppings; both traditionally are made with cheese, etc. In contrast, pizza is an Italian food whereas cheeseburgers make people think of America and cheeseburgers are traditionally made on a grill and pizza in an oven.

    Focus now on something you probably would not think of as an essential component of this type of essay: The gray area.

  7. Write down similarities the two subjects have, which are slightly different.
  8. Pizza and cheeseburgers are both considered to be unhealthy in excess and problem foods in America, yet one can be healthier than the other depending on how it is made. Pizza and cheeseburgers are both popular among American youth, yet most studies show they prefer pizza slightly more.

    Finally, wrap up your paper by stating the importance of each of these things you wrote about.

  9. State why Subject 1 is important.
  10. State why Subject 2 is important.

Try to tie these together for a more thoughtful conclusion.

Your conclusion may read something like, “Pizza is undoubtedly a special food and cheeseburgers to light up peoples' faces every day, from school cafeterias to family kitchens. They are important to many pastimes like sporting events and fairs, and each of the foods gives Americans, Italians and food lovers in general, a sense of home.”

Whether you feel you need to make a separate sheet of paper for each aspect or just start writing and go with the flow, this guide is a simple but effective way to help you write a meaningful compare-and-contrast essay.

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