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How to Make a Pros and Cons List (With Examples)

Read Time: 9 min
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Read Time: 9 min

Making decisions isn't always easy, whether that's for business or personally. After all, how do you know what you've decided is correct?

One way of weighing things up so you can feel settled in your mind is to make a pros and cons list.

In this guide we'll look at the art of weighing pros and cons, with an exploration of the whats, whys, and hows, as well as some pros and cons examples. By the end, you'll be ready to create your own pros and cons list to guide your next decision. 

What Is a Pros and Cons List?

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Di you ever wonder where the terms "pros and cons" come from? (Image source: Envato Elements)

Before we get into pros and cons examples, let's take a look at the component parts of our list - the pros and the cons. When you're weighing pros and cons, the pros are the factors in favor of a decision.

The term "pro" comes from a Latin word meaning "for". It generally relates to the reasons to do something or take a particular decision or action. You can also think of pros as:

  • benefits or advantages
  • or even as supporting factors or assets

In contrast, "con" comes from the Latin word "contra" meaning "against". It relates to the reasons not to do something or avoid a particular decision or action. You can think of cons as:

  • drawbacks
  • disadvantages
  • limitations
  • hindrances
  • obstacles
  • constraints
  • liabilities
  • and so on 

A Possible History of the Pros and Cons List

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Was Benjamin Franklin one of the first users of a pros and cons list? (Image source: Envato Elements)

One story that's told about the creation of a pros and cons list is that this method of weighing pros and cons was mentioned in a letter from Benjamin Franklin to Jacob Joseph Priestley in September 1772.

Benjamin Franklin suggested Priestley divide a sheet of paper into two columns, and write the pros in one column and the cons in another, to help guide a decision. This provides an early example of how to make a pros and cons list. 

Why Make a Pros and Cons List?

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Are you weighing pros and cons for an important decision? (Image source: Envato Elements)

There are several reasons why it makes sense to make a list when weighing pros and cons. A foundational reason is having difficulty making a decision, or having lots of options on the table that you need to choose from.

In some cases, creating pros and cons lists can help the decider be more objective about the decision, and can also speed up the decision-making process. 

While creating a pros and cons lists works in all those situations, note that the act of making the list doesn't guarantee the right decision. But it'll help you as a tool to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a particular action. 

Weighing Pros and Cons: When to Make a List

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A good pros and cons list can help you make a difficult decision. (Image source: Envato Elements)

So, when do you need a pros and cons list? There are lots of situations in which a pros and cons list might come in handy.

For example, when you're making a major life decision, such as whether to accept or apply for a new job or role, you could make a pros and cons list to work out the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. 

And if you're thinking of moving house, consider the advantages and disadvantages of moving at all, or of selecting particular locations. In such a case, pros and cons examples might include access to shopping, schools, transport and so on.

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There are many examples of when a pros and cons list could help. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Another major life decision where you're likely to weigh pros and cons might relate to education. This could be anything from choosing colleges to selecting the program you want to enroll in.

Examples of pros and cons might include the faculty, the qualifications, the post-graduation job prospects and more.   

Pros and cons lists can also come in handy when starting and ending relationships, whether these are business or personal. You'll want to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of beginning, continuing or ending. And, of course, pros and cons lists can also be used for less important day to day decisions.

In practice, no matter what decision you want to make, a pros and cons list can be used as a starting point and guide. 

How to Make a Pros and Cons List

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Learn how to make a pros and cons list. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Ready to make a pros and cons list? Here are nine steps you can follow:

1. Identify the Decision You Need to Make

Before you can start weighing pros and cons, figure out what decision you need to make and whether a pros and cons list is a good starting point.

Really, whether you're looking at deciding on a business deal, accepting a promotion or one of the other major life decisions listed earlier, it can't hurt to make a note of the benefits and drawbacks. So, once you know what you're deciding, it's time for the next step.

2. Choose Your Decision Logging Tool

When thinking about how to write a pros and cons list, you've got lots of options. As Benjamin Franklin suggested, a piece of paper is a great place to start. But you can also do this digitally, by creating a document in Microsoft Word or Google Docs (and there are plenty of Envato Elements templates to help you do it.) 

Similarly, you can create a slide in PowerPoint or Google Slides with a line down the middle and with text boxes where you can insert your pros and your cons. Again there are plenty of templates that'll allow you to do that on Envato Elements.

3. Format Your Pros and Cons List

Whichever decision logging or list making tool you choose; the next step is to pick your format. Whether you're using paper or a digital document, you'll want to divide your writing or typing space into two, with a line down the middle. Put the appropriate heading at the start of each columns, with the pros on one side and the cons on the other. Then you'll be ready for the next step. 

4. Ideate

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Think of ideas for pros and cons for your list. (Image source: Envato Elements)

The next step is to come up with your ideas. Think about what the pros and cons are for the decision that you've got to make. Think as broadly as you can and consider all the possible advantages and disadvantages.

Then move onto the next two steps. This is where you'll actually get your pros and cons written down, though you can also write down pros and cons in each column as you think of them during the ideation phase.

5. Write the Pros

Now it's time to get those ideas on paper or into your digital file. Write anything that you consider a benefit or advantage in the pros column. Here, you don't just need to think about the advantages for you. If other people might benefit - and you want that to happen - that can also go in the pros column.

For example, in a business setting, taking a promotion opportunity might create a similar opportunity for someone you're mentoring. Keep writing the pros down till you're done. 

6. Write the Cons

Similarly to the previous step, note down any liabilities or disadvantages relating to the decision you plan to make in the cons column.

For example, taking a promotion might result in more travel, taking you away from your family or friends. As before, consider disadvantages for others. If you're a team leader, consider the impact of your decisions on team members.

7. Assign Weightings to the Pros and Cons List

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Be sure to add weight to your pros and cons. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Not all pros and cons have the same value or risk. Some are more important considerations than others.

For example, if you're deciding on an educational programme, the quality of the education might be more important than the location. And if you're taking a new job,  the role you're expected to fill may have more relative importance than whether or not it comes with a free parking space.

Look back over your pros and cons list and decide which ones are most important. If you like, you can indicate the most important considerations with a star or a highlight.

8. Reassess and Analyze

Look back over your pros and cons list. Now that you examine them again, have you been realistic about the advantages and disadvantages, and the potential outcomes? If you've missed anything, add it to the list, and remove anything that no longer seems helpful. 

While you're looking over the pros and cons list, see if any further questions come up for you, and if you feel you're closer to being able to make a decision. If not, repeat from step 4 onwards till you feel you've written everything down. 

9. Make Your Decision

The final step is to take a decision based on your pros and cons list. With your weighted list in front of you, you should be able to get to an answer about the decision that faces you. Once you do, you'll usually be able to tell whether it feels right to you, and whether you're happy with it.

While you don't always want to go on gut feelings alone, those feelings can also signal whether you're on the right path, so don't discount any physical reaction to the decision you've made. 

Learn More About Decision Making

Want to learn more about the process of decision making check out these tutorials from Envato Tuts+:

Use a Template For Your Pros and Cons List

If you want to use a digital document rather than paper to make your pros and cons list, take a look at the templates Envato Elements offers for:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Google Docs
  • Google Slides
  • and more

Explore Envato Elements

They've got a great offer you won't want to pass up: download as many templates as you want for one low price so you can get started on weighing pros and cons - and sharing the results with others - without having to design the list yourself. 

Make Your Pros and Cons List Today

In this guide, you've seen what pros and cons are, the advantages of making pros and cons lists, how you can use them and the steps to follow in weighing pros and cons. Now it's over to you to use this method to assess your next decision.

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