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Compared to or Compared with: What’s the difference?

Making comparisons is a common component of scientific writing. We analyze two or more things in relation to each other to note similarities or differences as a way of contextualizing and understanding results. In English, “compare” or “compared” is often accompanied by the preposition “to” or “with.” Both are grammatically correct, so how do we know which one to use?  Hint: The answer has to do with whether the emphasis is on the similarities or the differences between the items being compared.

Test your knowledge. Which preposition would you use for the examples below?

Here’s the scoop:

Chances are the kind of comparisons you’re making in your research article serve to point out the differences between items of the same type; for example, comparing the effects of one drug with another drug, comparing the elasticity of two materials, or comparing the results of a test group with the control group. Whether you write “compared with” or “compared to,” your meaning will still be understood; however, compared with will be appreciated by editors as the correct choice.



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