The Compare/Contrast Essay
The Compare/Contrast Essay Typically Deals in Two’s.
If you look up the definition of the word “essay”, you will find a quick insight into this particular form of writing. An old Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary close by tells me that an essay is ” a short composition dealing with a single topic and typically personal in approach.” That’s short, sweet, and to the point.
Encarta online tells us that an essay is a “short non-fiction prose piece.” They further state that an essay is “a short analytic, descriptive, or interpretive piece of literary or journalistic prose…” Therefore, we know in general what an essay is. However, an essay is so much more. This ‘so much more’ can be found in the different types of essays there are that fall under the main umbrella definition.
One such type is the compare/contrast Essay. This type of essay allows a writer to describe the differences or similarities between two people, places, or things. Of course, a compare/contrast essay is also a vehicle to describe the differences or similarities between concepts, themes, ideas, ideologies, and opinions.
Now, people approach this type of essay writing in different ways and depending on the topic and its scope, you may choose to write strictly a comparison piece. Or you may decide to take the other approach, and only show how the two subjects of the topic differ. For a broad take on a topic, a writer may choose to show both sides of the coin. This is a full-fledged Compare/Contrast essay.
What’s great about this type of essay is the amount of information you can deliver to your reader. Think of the data, statistics, points of interest, descriptive reviews and the like you can give in a compare/contrast travel essay. You may want to write an essay on London and Paris. There is so much you can write comparing and contrasting their food, customs, culture, politics, art, music, fashion scene, architecture and more. The structure of the compare/contrast essay allows you to do this efficiently.
You may decide to compare the fashion industry in Paris to the industry in London. Here you could show how the industries are similar, how the designers are similar, how the fashion events are similar. You look for common ground here.
In the same essay, you can then deal with aspects of the industry that are polar opposites. Here you could show how designers may work differently, what the difference in styles is for the coming year in each city. You want to highlight how people operating in the same industry, miles apart, can have such a different approach.
A short essay as set out above can educate and inform your reader quickly. However, in a compare/contrast essay you have to determine your purpose in writing it. Will your essay be unbiased? In other words, will you simply present the similarities and differences to your reader and let them decide which of the two they prefer. Or are you going to write it to try and win your readers over to your side?
Take the fashion example above; you could write an essay to prove the Paris fashion industry is better than London’s, or vice-versa!
And you have to figure all this out before you begin to write. This enables you to give the proper tone and focus to your writing.
A good compare/contrast essay has a strong base for doing the actual comparing and contrasting. This base is an equal amount of information concerning the two subjects of the essay. Whether its people, places, things, or ideas you are comparing/contrasting, you cannot give one short shrift. Your essay will seem unbalanced, unfair, and incomplete.
With that in mind, you need to conduct the necessary research before you present the two themes of your essay. If you are comparing and contrasting the above-mentioned two cities, learn all you can about each, equally. Don’t give an in-depth report on only one city’s history for example. Give equal weight to both concerning their past.
If you report the architecture of one city, then give the other city’s architecture its due. If you don’t, then your reader does not have all relevant information they need to form their opinion. Your writing will favor one city over the other and this is where unbalanced writing makes your essay lose its credibility.
The compare/contrast Essay is useful for giving readers insight. With this type of essay, you offer interested readers a fresh take on the subjects. Take our city example once again. Your reader will understand “one” city better because you compared/contrasted it to another. You didn’t just present information on one of them in a profile piece. You presented information on two of them, which led to better understanding of “each” of them. The same will hold true whatever you write about.
Use the compare/contrast Essay to give a well rounded take on a topic. When you compare you show what’s similar between things that aredifferent. When you contrast, you show the differences between things that are similar.
All in all, your tale (essay) of two cities, people, places, or ideas will be sure to entertain and inform your audience.