How to write a great compare and contrast essay?

A compare and contrast essay is a piece that looks at two subjects in a similar category. The piece looks at the differences and similarities between these two subjects. It could be comparing different types of pets or different pieces of music or art from the same period, for example. Here’s how to write a great compare and contrast essay.

Choose a Subject

Keep in mind that the subjects have to be different yet similar enough to be compared fairly. Here are some examples;

  • Vegetarians and meat-eaters
  • Introverts and extroverts
  • Democracy and Totality
  • Baby Boomers and Millenials

Brainstorm Ideas

Create a list of the similarities between the subjects and a list of their differences. One way to do this is to create a Venn diagram. Have one circle for each subject that shows their differences, with the overlap representing their similarities. Creating a Venn diagram is a great way to get ideas on what to write about the subjects. You can also write a regular list on paper or your computer if you’d prefer.

Decide on a Main Argument

Great essays are about more than just simple comparisons. The genuinely great compare and contrast essay takes things a step further and makes a meaningful statement on a broader topic. Look through your notes and ask yourself if there is some significant point that stands out. If there is, then use that as the main argument for the paper.

Choose an Organizational Structure

You have some leeway when it comes to structuring the essay. The most common way to handle this kind of essay is to write a few paragraphs on one topic before moving on to the other. For example, you could write about the qualities of introverts for two paragraphs and then spend another two paragraphs looking at extroverts.

Another way to write a compare and contrast essay is to go through the argument point by point. Focus on the similarities and then move on to the differences. How you decide to structure the essay can depend on the topic at hand and your personal preference.

Put together an outline that makes sense for your essay structure. Essays generally include an introductory paragraph, three main body paragraphs, and then the conclusion paragraph. You may want to have four body paragraphs for a compare and contrast essay, so you’ve got the room to give both sides enough time.

Use Evidence to Support Viewpoints

Fill out the essay according to the outline and back up any assertions with evidence from reading, research, and anecdotal evidence. Personal anecdotes can help with some subjects, such as comparing cats and dogs. If comparing writing and poetry, such as comparing Keats and Shakespeare, include some quotes from their work to back up your arguments. Just make sure that you can justify including something and explain how it relates to your argument.

Include Transitional Words

Transitional words help shift your essay from one statement to another. Words such as “likewise” and “both” are useful for comparisons, while words like “whereas” and “nonetheless” are great for contrasts.


Go over your completed essay a few times to check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Have a friend go over the piece as well to get an outside perspective. Someone else may notice mistakes you didn’t.

Follow these simple steps to write your next compare and contrast essay and amaze your audience.

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