Expository Essays: Compare and Contrast
An expository essay is an essay in which the writer shares information with the reader. The writer supports the main points with factual information. The writer’s personal experience or point of view is not usually included in an expository essay, except perhaps as a hook to get the reader interested in the essay.
Different Types of Expository Essays
There are several types of expository essays, including cause and effect, compare and contrast, classification, and problem and solution. Sometimes, the writer of an expository essay will use more than one pattern of organization in the essay, such as cause and effect and compare and contrast. The choice of organizational pattern depends on the writer’s topic and audience.
Expository Essay: Compare and Contrast
A compare and contrast essay is a type of expository writing. The purpose is to point out the similarities and/or differences between two things, such as historical periods, people, or phenomena. In some compare and contrast essays, there is a focus on similarities; in others, the focus is more on the differences. In others, the similarities and differences are discussed evenly.
The compare and contrast organizational pattern is used in many disciplines or areas of study:
Science – to describe and differentiate natural phenomena or living creatures
Literature – to examine the work of two authors or compare two fictional characters
Social Studies – to discuss cultural differences and similarities
History – to compare two historical periods, events, or characters
It is important that the writer’s main points are easy to follow. Thus, the use of clear signal words indicating whether the writer is addressing a similarity or a difference is an important feature of compare and contrast essays. It is also important that the supporting evidence be well-researched, relevant, and clearly presented. When writing a compare and contrast essay, the writer cannot simply state that two things are similar or different; he or she must support those statements with details, facts, observations, and examples.
Basic Structure of Compare and Contrast Essays
- Announcement of the topic
- A thesis statement that clearly states what the writer will compare and/or contrast
The precise organization of a compare and contrast essay depends on the writer’s purpose. For example:
- Similarities and/or differences
- Transitional sentences between paragraphs
- Supporting evidence: details, facts, observations, and examples
- Signal words to indicate similarities and/or differences
- Restatement of central idea
- Satisfactory ending
Model Text 1: Compare and Contrast (Social Studies)
Minding Our Manners
A Many people think that the rules for polite behavior are the same everywhere. They may not realize that B how you define politeness depends upon the culture that you grow up in.
2 Body Paragraphs
For example, countries have different customs for offering and receiving food and drinks. C In Latin America, offering food or drink to all visitors is very important. If a visitor does not accept the food, it is considered rude, unless there is a health reason. C In the United States, on the other hand, it is appropriate for a guest to say “no” if he or she doesn’t want anything. Many hosts accept this refusal and are not offended by it.
D Politeness is also expressed by the way people speak to each other. Some cultures are more open and friendly; others are more reserved. C For example, in the United States, it is common for strangers to strike up a conversation. They may start talking on the bus, at a subway station, or in a supermarket. C On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, it is less common for strangers to talk. Many British people are more reserved than Americans, so talking to strangers is not always considered polite.
D Different customs can also be seen at restaurants. C In the United States, for example, people say “Excuse me” to call to a waiter or waitress. They do not snap their fingers because they think it is rude. C In some cultures, in contrast, people gesture with their hands or snap their fingers. Unlike in the United States, it is appropriate in those countries, and the server will not be offended.
Politeness is based on a desire to treat other people well, but E countries show politeness in different ways. E Each culture has its own customs and expectations. F If we understand this, we are less likely to be offended by customs that are different from our own.
Model Text 2: Compare and Contrast (Social Studies)
Researchers have made an interesting discovery about A modern-day men: they spend a lot of time and money on their appearance. C Today, global sales of male grooming products are billions of dollars a year, and the industry is not expected to slow down. Is this a sign that the modern man is becoming more concerned about his appearance? B Some people might think that fashion-conscious men are a new phenomenon, but a look through history reveals that men have actually been concerned about their looks for thousands of years.
2 Body Paragraphs
C The first documented cases of fashionable men occurred around 10,000 BCE in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians stressed the importance of good hygiene and health. Men applied oils and creams to their skin to protect themselves from the hot sun and dry winds of the desert. In addition to the perfumes they wore, men also had their own colored makeup, which they applied to their eyes, lips, cheeks, and nails. All of this was done not to impress others, but rather to keep their ancient gods happy.
D The ancient Greeks also valued male health and beauty, but in contrast to the Egyptians, the Greeks’ use of cosmetics was for purely aesthetic reasons. C Greek men applied flowerbased oils to their skin, and quickly adopted Egyptian oils after the Greek king Alexander the Great took over Egypt in 332 BCE. Alexander was the man responsible for making the use of oils common practice in daily Greek life. During his conquests, he would take plant cuttings and send them to Athens, where they were grown and made into perfumes and various skin oils for men to use before and after bathing.
D Around 100 AD, the Romans took men’s grooming products to a whole new level. C Like the Greeks, Roman men used skin oils before and after bathing, but they were also passionate about the beauty of their face and hair. They used nail polish and frequently dyed their hair blond to make themselves look younger. They had their own versions of eye shadow, blush for the cheeks, and powder for whitening the face. Vanity did not have a negative connotation, but instead was viewed as a natural consequence of health and beauty.
D In 16th century England, the emphasis on male beauty was directly tied to financial status. Rich English men would use face-whitening powder because they believed a pale face was a sign of wealth. Keeping their skin healthy was an elaborate procedure that consisted of bathing in wine, applying oils to the skin, and using an egg and honey mask on the face to hide wrinkles. On formal occasions, men further enhanced their appearance by using lipstick, bleaching their hair, and wearing wigs.
D Men today, and especially young men, are equally concerned about their appearance and body image, and this trend is not necessarily culture-specific. C In 2006, American men spent $4.8 millions on male grooming products; in parts of Asia, the male cosmetic industry is just as strong, if not stronger. [These] men are rejecting the modern-day “masculine” stereotype which says that men aren’t supposed to care about their appearance. In today’s world, that assumption is simply not true. Modern-day society is becoming more liberal, and no longer expects all men to fit one definition of “masculinity.”
F It is often said that history repeats itself—trends come and go as people’s beliefs and values change over time and cultures interact with one another. E Modern man’s interest in grooming and cosmetic products is not a new phenomenon. The eye creams, facial masks, and moisturizers that men are buying today are simply different versions of the same idea, one that began 12,000 years ago.
Expressing Similarities and Differences
The following words are used to introduce similarities and differences. These words help give your essay a clear structure and are often used as a transition (= change) from one idea to another.
Differences less, more … than, some … others, different, on the other hand, but, unlike, but instead, but rather, but actually, in contrast, in contrast to
Similarities also, the same, equally, just as, like, in addition
1. At the beginning of a paragraph
Use these words at the beginning of a paragraph to transition from the topic of the previous paragraph to a similar or contrasting topic of the new paragraph:
[Topic of previous paragraph: One way of expressing politeness …]
Politeness is also expressed by the way people speak to each other.
2. In the middle of a paragraph
Use these words in the middle of a paragraph to show a similarity or contrast with the point made in the preceding sentence:
[Point of preceding sentence: … in the United States, it is common for strangers to strike up a conversation.]
On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, it is less common for strangers to talk.