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Using comparisons

When trying to explain something new to somebody it is often easy to compare it to something else. This will relate what you are describing to something that is already understood. This can be useful, but it can also be misleading.

What comparisons can hide

Sometimes a comparison is made but the thing being compared to is left out. For example, if someone says “My presentation went badly” they are making a comparison. It is not clear what they are comparing with — badly compared to other presentations they have given, other presentations they have seen, or how they expected the presentation to go? Because the thing being compared to isn’t described explicitly the comparison may be invalid, or at least misleading.

Why it is important to clarify comparisons

Quite often we compare ourselves to others. When we do this we risk diminishing our accomplishments and strengths. In order to more accurately assess ourselves it is important to understand what we are comparing ourselves with. This is one reason why it is important to understand what is being compared to.

Recognizing a Comparison

In order to clarify a comparison you must first recognize that a comparison is being made. Comparisons are often made in the form of judgments and use the words “best”, “better”, “worse”, and “worst”. For example, a product may claim that it is “improved and now better”. Better compared with what? If it used to be the worst product on the market and it is now the second worst it is definitely better than it was, but perhaps not the ideal product to purchase.

Clarifying a comparison

In order to better understand a comparison, ask the question “compared with what?” When you understand what the comparison is being made with you can get a more objective understanding of the situation. When you have a more objective understanding of the situation you can then understand if the comparison is valid.

Comparison Summary

Comparisons can be useful but can also hide information.

Comparisons can be recognized in statements where judgments are being made and/or with the use of the words “best”, “better”, “worse”, and “worst”.

Comparisons can be clarified by asking “compared with what?”

Related Pages

Unspecified Nouns
Unspecified Verbs
Modal Operators of Possibility
Modal Operators of Necessity
Universal Quantifiers
Complex Equivalence
Cause and Effect
Mind Reading