Many people are confused with compare and contrast. Why are there two words for it and not just one? The answer is that they are two separate things: comparing is different from contrasting. Comparing tells us how items are similar. Contrasting tells how items are different. The trouble is that people commonly say comparing when they mean both compare and contrast. Here, we will not mix the two: comparing is one thing and contrasting is another.
Another reason why we confuse comparing and contrasting is that usually we use both of them together. For example, students deciding between two courses compare them to see if they cover the same material and contrast them to see how they differ. Sometimes we use compare and contrast just to understand two items, like notebook and laptop computers. Compare them for similarities and contrast them for differences.
A compare-and-contrast essay typically includes these elements: two or more subjects that have something in common; a main idea that enables readers to make a decision or to better understand the subjects; a balanced, parallel display of similarities (comparison) and differences (contrast); and the use of either point-by-point or subject-by-subject organization.
A compare-and-contrast essay aims to help the reader either decide between items or understand the items better. For example, you may want to compare and contrast to help you decide between two different apartments to rent or two different cars to buy. Or, you may want to better understand the similarities and differences between a hare and a rabbit. Your compare-and-contrast thesis statement should include both the essay's main idea and whether you will express the items' similarities, differences, or both. Consider this thesis statement: The United States and the United Kingdom are a study in comparison and contrast. This tells us that the essay will both compare and contrast the two countries, but it needs...