Should I write ‘compared to’ or ‘compared with’?

Will SThere’s a subtle but useful difference between ‘compared to’ and ‘compared with’. ‘Compared to’ highlights a similarity between two things.
‘Compared with’ does the opposite: it contrasts them.

Confusing the two is way down the list of word crimes and misdemeanours. It hardly merits a
mention when compared with (as you might say) misspelling someone’s specialism in an email to them. And as time moves on, the difference might become lost altogether. But for now, it can be useful to use them in their originally intended, distinct ways.

So, if you wanted to post a glowing recommendation for a colleague on LinkedIn, you might write, ‘I would definitely compare her to the best in the business.’ And if you’re advising on a course of action in a management proposal, you could say, ‘Compared with our other options, this is by far the most cost effective.’

Back when I was learning my trade as an editor, a wise old hack advised me to think of the Shakespeare quote: ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ The Bard may have gone on to rattle off all the reasons why he shouldn’t liken the object of his affection to a soggy Sunday in Weston-super-Mare. But he did pose the question as a form of flattery.

He meant that he would compare her to a summer’s day but for the fact that she was beautiful and his love everlasting; whereas the English summer was too short, too windy, too dull etc. (At least, we presume he meant the summer and not his would-be main squeeze.)

Reciting the quote can be a good way to remind yourself of the difference. But if you find that too confusing, just remember that the to in ‘compared to’ stands for ‘together’.

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