ENGL 101
English Composition I
Home Page >> Writing Assignments >> Compare/Contrast

This is the actual essay assignment. The information sheet explaining the type of essay is here.

For the comparison/contrast assignment, there are three options: traditional, business and fun. Choose the option that appeals to you the most. As always, it is extremely important that you CARE about the subject that you are writing. Writing just to write turns out dry, uninteresting essays. There is no agenda here. People who choose one option over the other will NOT have an advantage over the other students.

To produce an acceptable comparison/contrast essay, the writer should:
-- use grammatically appropriate sentence structures
-- Organize the essay using the comparison/contrast format that best fits the purpose and information
-- Use appropriate paragraph breaks to control the flow of information
-- Use transitions both within and between the paragraphs
-- Develop and explain the essay content completely
-- Communicate a clear and specific purpose to an audience

Option 1: Traditional

Compare/contrast two items as you would in a typical classroom situation. Compare and contrast Communism and Democracy as political systems. Compare and Contrast the Southern economy before and after the Civil War. Compare and Contrast Hamlet and Macbeth as main characters. You know the drill.

However, and this is a big however, this needs to be a new paper. You will be expected to reflect the guidelines given below in terms of structure and focus. Previous papers for classes might give you a topic and/or a starting point, but trust me that you will want to re-work them before turning them in to this class.

Also remember that you need to be an expert in your subject in order to write a convincing essay. If you want to compare and contrast the Southern economy before and after the Civil War, you need to know something about the subject first. THIS ISN'T A RESEARCH ASSIGNMENT. Any information that you need or use should be part of your working knowledge already.

Option 2: Business

Choose a decision that your company is having to make: the style of new uniforms, whether to stay open 24 hours or not, whether to buy laptop or desktop computers, etc. Then write an essay/report weighing the options and making a decision. This is very typical of the sort of comparison/contrast writing that people have to do in the working world on a regular basis.

Remember that you will have to set up specific criteria. What is the company looking for in new uniforms? What are the employees looking for? You need to be able to explain why those criteria are important enough to affect the decision, and then show how the options weigh in when compared to those criteria.

Option 3: Fun

Choose something aesthetic that you enjoy, like music, movies, TV, books, etc. Write an essay explaining why one item is better than the other. In other words, if you are a comic book fan, write an essay explaining why Batman is a better character than Superman. Or if you are a Stephen King fan, write an essay explaining why The Stand is a better novel than Salem's Lot.

Again, don't let your enthusiasm get the best of you. Don't assume that every reader knows rap music or comic books as well as you do. Don't just use criteria to compare, explain WHY those criteria are important.

Overall Guidelines:


Remember that your essay has to have a purpose. What will the reader know about the topic once they've finished your essay? Why are you comparing Batman and Superman? Why are you worrying about which uniform to purchase? If YOU don't know, then the reader never will. Don't just write the essay because you have to; write the essay for a purpose - to mean or explain something important.


You have several choices here. You can use the subject by subject organization, the point by point organization, or even some combination of the two. Whatever you choose, make sure that it helps the reader understand WHAT is being compared, and WHY. Remember that subject by subject organization emphasized WHAT is being compared, while point by point organization emphasizes the elements or issues that affect the comparison or ultimate decision. Decide what you want or need to emphasize, and organize appropriately.


Remember that you know more about your subject than most of your audience will. Make sure that you are defining important terms and that all of your criteria are explained. Price might seem to be an obvious criteria, but different people view the cost of an item differently. Always explain your reasons for making price, or any other criteria, an important part of the comparison.

Good luck!