An essay explores an issue from a particular focus, usually in at least five paragraphs. The body of an essay explains and proves the purpose of the essay through sentences that organize ideas and connect them to each other. One common relationship between ideas that sentences in an essay demonstrate is similarity. Comparative phrases signal that a writer is showing similarity between ideas.
Advantages of Comparative Phrases
An amateur writer assumes the connections between the ideas in his writing should be obvious to anyone, simply because the writer can understand them. However, this is not the case. This common error leads to choppy sentences and fuzzy connections between ideas, both on the sentence and paragraph level. Transition phrases, such as comparative phrases, bring the writer’s thought process into relief for the reader.
Kinds of Comparative Phrases
The term “phrase” usually refers to a group of words, but single comparative words can function identically to a comparative phrase that contains several words. Comparative phrases often function as either adverbs or adverbial phrases. For example, “similarly” and “likewise” are both adverbs, as in “The two sports are played similarly,” and “Likewise, the cause of the second reaction is unknown.” “Just as,” “so too” and “also” all indicate comparison as well. Longer comparative phrases include “in comparison,” “in the same way/fashion/vein/manner” and “this idea is similar to.” Writers can also compare ideas by saying “as good as,” as in “This shoe fits as good as the other one.” These phrases can begin sentences, precede ideas in the middle of a sentence to link it back to the one before or link ideas in the same sentence.
Where to Use Comparative Phrases in an Essay
There are no right or wrong places to put comparative phrases in an essay. They certainly prove useful in the body of an essay, where the writer explains how evidence for the main argument or topic sentence fits together or shows common properties. However, comparative phrases can also clarify ideas in an introduction. In an essay that requires a literature review before the thesis, comparative phrases can help a writer organize which sources agree with each other. Sometimes beginning a new paragraph with a comparative phrase that connects the following information with the ideas in the previous paragraph provides a smooth transition for the reader.
Considerations for Use
Use a variety of comparative phrases to prevent your essay from sounding repetitive. However, using comparative phrases excessively can make your essay sound contrived. Instead, punctuate your essay with comparative phrases periodically where ideas could benefit from being more clearly linked. Also, substitute short one- or two-word phrases for long phrases wherever possible to avoid wordiness.
- “Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers”; Lynn Quitman Troyka; 2002
Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.