Advantages and disadvantages essays combine elements of descriptive or exploratory essays with elements of persuasive or argumentative essays. They require you to analyze both sides of something and to understand and explain arguments for and against it. Learning to write advantages and disadvantages essays helps build critical thinking, analysis and communication skills.

Research and Planning

Before you can write a good advantages and disadvantages essay, you need to choose a specific, narrow topic for which you can generate "pros" and "cons." If your topic is too broad, it will be much harder to do this. For example, war and poverty usually are assumed to have few or no advantages, and health and education to have few or no disadvantages. Narrower topics such as specific policies to end war or poverty, or specific approaches to health or education, will work better, because they actually do have advantages and disadvantages. Also bear in mind that some topics have different advantages and disadvantages for different groups or situations. For example, online classes may work very well for some students but not for others. Thinking of your topic in terms of people or situations it does or doesn't "fit" well can help you focus your topic and generate a list of advantages and disadvantages.

Brainstorm and Outline

You will usually not have space in your essay to do justice to all the advantages and disadvantages you can think of; instead, you will need to select the most important or interesting issues to focus on. Your essay should have a sense of depth and balance, treating both sides of the issue thoroughly and fairly. This does not necessarily mean you will find advantages and disadvantages of equal number and strength. Instead, focus on being as thorough as possible in the questions you ask yourself about your topic, and in the research you do to answer those questions. If your thought and research about your topic are in-depth, you will cover both sides fairly even if one emerges as the stronger. To make a working outline, try jotting down advantages in one column and disadvantages in another. Choose two to four items from each column, then simply decide in which order you want to address your chosen points and how much space you will spend on each.

Organization and Writing

You can organize your advantages and disadvantages essay in several different ways. You may discuss all the advantages first, then the disadvantages, or vice versa. Or you may prefer to discuss the advantages and disadvantages in pairs. For example, in an essay on the advantages and disadvantages of online classes, you may want to focus on paragraph on the advantages and disadvantages of self-pacing, one on the advantages and disadvantages of working outside the classroom, and one on the advantages and disadvantages of communicating with professors and other students online. Once you have your outline, write your first draft, focusing on covering both sides of the issue clearly, thoroughly, and fairly. Avoid "loaded" or emotional language that favors one side over the other; instead, use an objective tone and back up each point you make with specific detail. Use transitional words and phrases such as "also," "even more importantly," "but," "however," and "on the other hand" to help the reader follow your arguments.

Finishing

Your finished advantages and disadvantages essay should start with an introductory paragraph that introduces your topic, its importance, and the idea that it has both advantages and disadvantages to consider. The body of your essay should discuss both the advantages and disadvantages you have chosen to focus on in a thorough, balanced, and objective way. Make sure you are not arguing for one side or the other; instead, focus on being as thorough and detailed as possible in providing the facts so your reader can evaluate the pros and cons for himself or herself. End your essay with a concluding paragraph that sums up for your reader the advantages and disadvantages you have considered, making the overall issue simpler to understand and remember. If the assignment requires or allows it, this is also where you should state your own conclusion, referring back to the body of your essay to show why you believe one side outweighs the other.