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Arts & Letters Daily


Writing Tutorial – Comparison

Suppose I am interested in purchasing a tablet. Given the variety of tablets available on the market, what should I purchase? I don’t even know which questions to ask! Suppose I bring my search down to two of the most popular tablets – the iPod and the PlayBook? Now I have reduced my search to two tablets. How can I determine which is the best choice? At one level, the answer is obvious … compare the two tablets and make a decision.

But, what is a reliable way of comparing the two? Let’s read the following two comparisons to answer this question.

First, let’s read the following essay where David says he is comparing two tablets – the iPad and the PlayBook. Is his comparison convincing?

PlayBook or iPad: What should you buy?

After carefully reviewing and comparing the two laptops, I conclude that the iPad is superior to the PlayBook. Here are my reasons.


Several features of the iPad convinced me of its superiority. First, most media will arrive via iTunes because it has the most extensive music library, Video and TV Show library, Video Podcasts and Music Videos. In addition, it offers a vast library of iTunes of university video files – informative lectures and guides from top universities.


Second, the iPad has great photo and video editing built in. The organization and options after a photo or video are taken are also plentiful and intuitive.


Third, the iPad offers quality browsing experience. The size of the iPad 2 gives it a huge advantage. Plus it offers a smooth scrolling and zooming experience and quick load times.


As for the PlayBook, its PIM functions (personal information manager) are superior. Swiping through open apps to find just the one you want is very efficient on the PlayBook.


At $199.00, the PlayBook is a steal.


In conclusion, I recommend the iPad because of its superior features.

Did David present a true comparison?

Since I am planning to purchase a tablet, I am particularly interested in David’s comparison because I want to know each strength and weakness of the two tablets.

And, so I read with keen interest what David had to say about each tablet. But, I was frustrated and disappointed with David’s essay. He identified some of the strong features of each tablet but he did not give me a comparison. For example, he says that the PlayBook is a steal at $199.00 but he does not tell me the price of  the iPad. Is it $10.00 more, $100.00 more or $300.00 more? He does not provide me with the information I need to decide what price difference, if any, I am prepared to accept.

Similarly, he tells me that ‘The size of the iPad 2 gives it a huge advantage.’ What is ‘huge’? What is the difference in size between the two? He does not give me the information I need to decide whether the difference in size matters to me.

In short, for me to decide which tablet I want to purchase, David needs to provide me with the information on each criteria for both tablets. He did not do that … he chose one set of criteria to describe the iPad and another set of criteria to describe the PlayBook. To describe the iPad, he used the following criteria: access to media, photo and video editing, and the browsing experience. To describe the PlayBook, he used the following criteria: PIM function, swiping through open apps, and price. That does not help me make an informed comparison.

To offer this kind of comparison, David would have had to use the Alternating Pattern. He could not use it because he would have had to use a common set of criteria. Since he used different criteria for each platform, he could not use the Alternating Pattern.

It’s for these reasons that David’s conclusion was not convincing.

Now let’s read the following comparison.

iPad or PlayBook – What should I buy?

It is apparent to me that both tablets have strong features. However, is one superior to the other? Here is my take.


Both devices are very similar when it comes to app organization, using folders and having the ability to populate a dock with “Favorite” apps.


Both the iPad 2 and the PlayBook 2.0 can multi-task. Both have the hardware to handle multiple apps open at once and both can allow for plenty of apps to be running simultaneously. The PlayBook just handles multi-tasking better.


The merging of all data in the Contacts app and the ability to have a People view in the calendar make the PlayBook 2.0 PIM functions (personal information manager) superior to the iPad 2 experience.


The iPad 2 delivers a knockdown to the PlayBook in media capabilities.


The powerful Messaging app, unified inbox with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, rich text editor and more make the PlayBook an email king.


E-Reading is not a strength of the PlayBook in spite of its size and the way the books look on the screen. The iPad 2 simply has too many options for consuming printed material.


The iPad 2 has a horrible camera, but great photo and video editing built in. The organization and options after a photo or video are taken are also more plentiful and more intuitive on the iPad. The PlayBook has a pretty decent camera – certainly way better than that on the iPad 2. With virtually no editing or transmitting options, all you can really do with the PlayBook is scroll through your pictures or have a basic slide show.


Both devices offer a quality browsing experience. The size of the iPad 2 and a smoother scrolling and zooming experience and quicker load times gives the iPad a huge advantage over the PlayBook 2.0.


At $199.00, the PlayBook is a steal … the iPad starts at $499.00.


The PlayBook and the iPad offer two very different, yet, very good devices. It all boils down to why you want a tablet and how you plan to use it. For content “consumption,” the iPad 2 reigns supreme. For content “creation” and content “management,” the PlayBook is the best tablet on the market today. The strengths are really so different that the user needs to decide what is her/his own hierarchy of needs for a tablet.


Notice how the writer uses specific thinking strategies to compares the two tablets.

THINKING STRATEGY # 1 – Identify the strength and weakness of each tablet using the same set of criteria on each tablet

THINKING STRATEGY # 2 – Select the most effective Pattern: Use the Alternating Pattern to identify the strength and weakness of each tablet criteria by criteria

Using these thinking strategies enabled the writer to arrive at a thoughtful conclusion that readers can use to arrive at their own conclusion. The writer applied the following model for making a comparison.

That’s all … thanks for listening.

Try this …

1.      At, go to Writing and to Comparison. Read the ESSAY and complete the template.

2.      Write an essay using comparison to develop your ideas. After you are pleased with your essay, edit it for grammar to create a reader’s draft.

If you have any questions about the writing process, send them to Ask Dr. Otto  at

Enjoy your writing experience.