|Communities Resolving Our Problems: the basic idea|
|[SUP: Sharing Problems]||[THINK: Guidance]||[LEAP: Solving Problems]|
Source: Adapted from North Carolina End-of-Grade Testing Program pamphlet. (1992-93). Testing Section, Division of Accountability Services, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Certain language patterns appear when discussing similarities and differences. For example, when discussing similarities, the terms both, either or neither would commonly be used, as in "they both require an understanding of calculus" or "neither involve swimming while holding your breath." With differences, expressions might be positive to negative, such as "a laptop computer can, but a desktop computer cannot." More common are terms such as less or more as well as the use the suffix of "er" as in one is faster, easier, or weaker, such as "an ink pen mark is darker and easier to read in contrast to the fainter markings of a pencil". For example, "team problem solving requires more coordination and greater calendar management". Note that discussion of differences through the lens of advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons or strengths and weaknesses only does half the job of comparison thinking, leaving out consideration of similarities and can lead to a writing style missing direct comparative language.
Compare the themes of these two stories
Responding to a prompt requiring comparison requires some practice. Use two headings to keep your thinking focused: similarities; and differences. Under the appropriate heading, make every sentence count by using the language of comparison in each sentence . Unless absolutely essential to the reader's understanding of some obscure vocabulary, avoid description and explanation. Keep your comparison balanced, giving as much writing to similarities as to differences. Do not get caught in the trap of thinking about which is better, which requires the writing format of evaluation, though comparison thinking is essential to discovering the criteria needed for evaluation.
When discussing similarities, each sentence should include
language such as either, neither, both, or each. When discussing differences,
each sentence should include language such as less, more, faster, slower,
longer, shorter, can and cannot, etc. Note that the use of "er" at the end of an
adjective generally denotes comparative language. Finally, don't just think this
through in your head; practice this writing format.
Sample Comparison Essay
Prompt: Compare a keyboard to a mouse.
Both are input devices. Neither can be used to input such. Each is used by hands. Either can be rendered useless by spilling liquids on it.
A mouse is much faster in pointing to an area of the screen. A mouse cannot enter text but a keyboard can. A keyboard costs more. A mouse weighs less. Keyboards are bumpier and heavier.
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