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Reading: Language for Comparing Texts


Reading: Language for Comparing Texts Revision

Reading: Language for Comparing Texts

It can be tricky to properly understand one text, let alone two at the same time.

But worry not!

Going into the exam prepared, with a good understanding of the language involved in comparing texts can make the job a lot easier.

Let’s jump in.


Tone is really important in understanding texts, and how they relate to each other. It determines how the text is presented and received, both in what is written and in the context surrounding the source.

Knowing what the tone of a text is compared to another is a very important skill to be able to implement in your answer. 



How do we know what tone is?

In the texts you’re asked to compare, a good start is comparing the tonal qualities of different language features. 

Let’s take a look at two sentences:

Realistically, there is nothing that can be done at this point about climate change.”

“There will be better days ahead, but only through effective, collective action and a broader societal effort towards ending global warming.”


Broadly, both sentences have a very serious tone.

We can see this through the use of specialist language like “climate change” and “global warming“.

Language that highlights struggle such as “better days ahead“, is contrasted against the lack of idiomatic language in the first sentence

Looking deeper, we can see that the tone of the second sentence is far more hopeful than the first sentence.

The first one uses the language of frankness and perhaps also defeatism through the word “realistically“, whereas the second lays out a more concrete vision of what must change. 



Asking questions about the authors of a text can also be very helpful in establishing and comparing tone


For example, ask yourself how knowing that the first was written by the CEO of an oil business, and the second by an activist, would affect the tone of each text

You could argue that the one being written by the CEO of an oil business should be biased towards an optimistic view or denial of climate change, so the idea that someone as invested in the business would say the opposite adds to the serious tone.




Style and Register

Comparing style and register is another important element of the exam.

These can be especially tricky, as neither of them are explicitly given in the text.

However, we can learn some easy strategies to be able to pick out style and register, compare them between the texts, and make your answer really stand out!



Style is how a text is written and which techniques the writer employs.

Register is the way the writer wants to have the text received (how they want the reader to understand the text).

It overlaps with style, but there are subtle differences.

For example, a text that has an academic register will use complex terminology and structural techniques like footnotes and citations.

However, it will also have a style – a passionate scholar may write research with an angry style, while still maintaining an academic register



It’s important to ask yourself with each text what the register, and what the style is:


  • Do either of the sources overlap in style or register?
  • Why might they be different?
  • What are the implications of one style over another?


If you tie this in with the analysis of language features and tone, you’ll be able to write a very convincing answer!



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Language Features

As always, your analysis (and here, comparison) should be firmly rooted in the language of a text.

They form the bulk of what makes a text after all!

Here, we will go through a few tips when looking out for language features to compare.




A metaphor is used in almost all writing, a lot of the time we don’t even realise we’re using it!

A metaphor is when a writer describes something that is not literally possible. 


For example, saying “the sun is a dandelion in bloom” is a metaphor.

So, they are good to look out for when comparing texts, as it is likely that there will be there.

Think about what we have already discussed here, and apply it to the use of metaphors.


Ask yourself why the tone of a metaphor in one text is so sad, while the other might be hopeful.

What kind of words are used in each metaphor?


Are they references to other books?

Do they suggest a certain emotion?

Is the text biased?

Are they using historical or social references?


A metaphor can be extended over numerous lines in a text, meaning it is likely to contain other language features to analyse. Therefore, it can very easily form the basis of a paragraph in your answer.




Verbs are a fundamental part of language, and so we can often overlook their importance.

However, when we compare two texts, looking at how each writer uses verbs can yield some amazing insights.

They are the doingwords of language.


For example, to run, to paint, to feel all of these are verbs

However, verbs can be used in a lot of different ways, and they are intentionally manipulated by writers for different reasons.

For example, if two texts were talking about bank fraud, the bank may say that the money was stolen (from the verb “to steal“), whereas the thief, pleading their innocence, may say that they transferred the money by mistake.


Each verb is loaded with different implications and different levels of activity. “Stolen” implies active malice and intent, whereas “transferred” does not immediately imply any wrongdoing, and in fact passively implies that nothing was unusual about the movement of the money.

So, always make sure to look out for the verb choices of different writers, as this level of specificity in your writing will gain you some very high marks




This is another good element to talk about in your answerevery text will use punctuation after all!

It can be easy to forget that the punctuation of a sentence does a lot of work, alongside the language of a sentence, to create meaning.

The use of a full stop against an exclamation mark can make a sentence feel far more blunt and formal for example.


When you analyse the punctuation of one source in comparison to another, it’s important to ask yourself why each piece of punctuation has been used by the author.

Punctuation increases and decreases the speed at which we read; it focuses our mind on specific elements of the sentence.


So, you could argue that using punctuation such as hyphens and commas draws attention to particular elements of the text. Then, you can compare it to how the other writer does the same, or draws attention to something different




Bringing it Together

So, how do we bring this all together to use in an exam?

Like most things with the exam, being able to make the most out of language features and being able to spot them for your comparison is a good way to gain those marks!



Remember that creating a cohesive comparison relies on having a good plan. This could be in the form of:

  • Spider diagrams
  • Tables
  • Annotations
  • Bullet points

So make sure you leave enough time to weigh up those similarities and differences.



It is also important to discuss both sources equally, so try not to stick to one text! The key word here is ‘compare‘.

As a rule, each of your paragraphs should include one issue that is being compared. This can be done by using the PEEL paragraph method.



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