Comprehension, analysis, and evaluation.  These are just a few of the key skills that are developed and refined in English. Now, let’s turn our attention to the skill of comparison.

You are presented with two texts and you are asked to compare their similarities and differences. Where do you start? It can be difficult to figure out exactly what types of things you should be comparing. We suggest that you start with these five key elements:

Subject – What are the texts about? What is the main focus?

Perspective – Is it a first-person or third-person perspective? Is it from a child or adult’s perspective? How does the perspective affect the writing?

Language – What literary techniques does the writer use and to what effect? Zoom in on the effect of similar or different word choices.

Ideas – What are the main themes presented in both texts? What do they comment on?

Tone – What type of mood/atmosphere is set? Is it a positive or negative tone? Is there any dialogue?

A table similar to this will help you clearly plot and organise your comparative points before you begin writing your answer:

This is only a planning guideline and you should not be afraid to divert from these five elements and compare other things you notice about the texts. For example, you might decide to compare the structural features of both texts. Perhaps you could focus on how one text ends in comparison to the other. Does text 1 end on a hopeful note and text 2 end on a pessimistic note?

The two texts do not have to be polar opposites or identical for you to compare them.

Students often forget that it is completely fine to have an answer that points out both a similarity and a difference between texts. For example: Although both texts refer to Christmas, the writer of text 1 speaks of the impact of Christmas on a child, while text 2 focuses on the impact of Christmas on an adult. It is important that you look out for and comment on these small nuances as this makes your answer much more insightful than one that simply says: Both texts talk about Christmas.

When you are asked to compare texts, you should use comparative phrases as discourse markers to signpost your work. Here are some words and phrases you might want to use:

When looking at differences between two texts, you can use phrases such as:

  •         On the contrary…
  •         On the other hand…
  •         Whereas…
  •         However…

Comparing texts is not an impossible task. It simply requires you to be strategic, attentive, and confident in your evidenced points.

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