ESSAY TYPES: MODES - PowerPoint Document Version
There are two basic formats to Comparing or Contrasting two items. If one were to compare apples and oranges, for example, we would consider the fruits the items, and qualities such as flavor, color, texture, "juicability" and the like as the aspects. Both are designed to evaluate the relative merits of two items so that the reader may come to some sort of conclusion. The writer's goal is to be as complete and fair as necessary; in other words, no important information should be omitted, especially any that would be likely to skew the overall picture from one side to another. Also, the writer must compare the same or similar aspects of the two items. One cannot fairly compare apples to oranges by merely comparing the oranges in juice form to the apples in sauce form. It would be fair, however, to include a discussion of the superior nutritive value of orange juice over that of apple juice. One could also discuss the "unsaucability" of oranges and compare it to the popularity of apple sauce. The purpose is to appear as unbiased as possible; if your favorite item is superior, then let it stand on its own merits.
The first style is side by side. The two items are compared aspect to aspect. Paragraphs focus on an individual aspect and explain how both items compare in that aspect.
Next is what I call A, then B. Examine all the aspects of Item A, then discuss those same aspects of Item B in the same order.
You may be able to put all of each item into one paragraph, but it is more likely you will have to make the discussion of each item several paragraphs. The important thing is to use these formats for the appropriate comparison. Side by side is better when there are many strong aspects both items share that would be hard to remember if one just listed them. A then B is better when we are trying to get an overall picture of two items that are mostly unlike or share very few aspects. In that case you will tell the reader what aspects each item has - and what each does not have.
© T. T. Eiland, January 1998