COMPARISON AND CONTRAST
OVERVIEW AND INSTRUCTIONS (excerpted from Writing Paragraphs and Essays by Marilyn Fry):
For this essay you will use both the Personal Description and Comparison methods of development. You will use Personal Description to introduce your topic, and then you will compare and contrast two things. This is a personal essay, so you will choose your own topic.
You might want to compare people: for example, two of your friends or two aunts or two cousins or two of your children. You might decide to compare two classes you have taken or the teaching styles of the two instructors. You could comare two places you have lived or two schools you have attended or two jobs you have had. You might want to compare two products, two brands of something. If you like, you could compare two books you have read on the same subject or compare the book with the movie based on the book. The choices are endless. (You can also glean ideas from the example essays in your text, but be aware that these do not show you the required structure for this assignment.) Here is a list of possibilities:
Two college teachers (or college pressures or college courses)
Two pet owners (or pets)
Two internet users
Two friends, bosses, or relatives
Two talk show hosts or talk shows
Two sports announcers (or fans)
Two herbal remedies or alternative medicines
Two laundromat users
Two people waiting in line
Two cell phone users you know
Two break-ups you've had
Use your favorite prewriting techniques. Choose your subject and formulate a thesis statement. Your thesis statement will always be a comparison statement: "A and B are very similar"; "A and B are quite different"; "A and B are similar in...ways but different in...ways."
Next, choose a plan of organization. A comparison essay can be organized three main ways.
1. Topic-Topic (Block)
B. All about A
C. All about B
D. Conclusion (Comparison/Contrast of A and B)
B. Similarities (likenesses) between A and B
C. Differences between A and B
3. Item-Item (Point-by-Point)
B. Item 1 (Comparison of A and B on item/point 1)
C. Item 2 (Comparison of A and B on item/point 2)
D. Item 3 (Comparison of A and B on item/point 3)
Notes about Topic-Topic organizational plan:
This plan only has 2 body paragraphs. One is about one thing being compared. The other is about the other. For example, if you are comparing Apple computers with PCs, after your introduction the first body paragraph would be about Apples. The second body paragraph would be about PCs, giving similar information in the same order about the PCs as the information was given in the first body paragrah. Then the two would be compared in a long concluding paragraph.
This organization appears easy, but it is often not successful. The most common mistake writers make is forgetting to actually compare and contrast the two topics in the conclusion. Instead they simply summarize. Although it may feel unnatural, the concluding paragraph is where the actual comparison takes place. Therefore, the conclusion will be much longer than usual.
Remember! Here's the kicker. You can't bring in new information to a conclusion, so all the points that you compare and contrast there must be ones you've mentioned in the body paragraphs already. In those paragraphs these were points of description, but in the conclusion they are used as points of comparison and contrast.
Writing topic sentences for this format is difficult. The topic sentence has to summarize the totality of a person or thing; it needs to be quite specific. It is not enough to say "My cousin Mary is a nice person." That is too vague. You would have to spell out the things that make Mary "nice." "My cousin Mary is a friendly and outgoing person who cares about other people and the environment." Even that topic sentence would not allow you to write about other things about Mary: how she looks, what her other interests are, what her occupational goals or hobbies are, etc.
Some writers don't go into enough detail in the body paragrahs: they simply give a general summary of the subject rather than telling all about it. Each person or thing should be defined, described, and explained in detail. The same order of information should be used in each body paragraph. If you are comparing two friends, Sally and Jane, in the first body paragraph, which is all about Sally, you might begin by describing Sally's appearance and then go on to discuss her personality and then describe her interests and hobbies and, last, tell about her educational level and occupational goals. If that is the order you use in the first body paragraph, then the second body paragraph about Jane should follow the same order. You should first tell about Jane's appearance; then her personality; then her interests and hobbies; and last, her education and career goals.
Notes about the Likenesses-Differences organizational plan:
This plan is easy and appropriate if there are about the same number of likenesses as differences. However, it would not work well if there are many similarities but only a few differences or vice versa.
Body paragraphs should be balanced (about the same length).
Compare the similarities back and forthe between the two peopel or things; compare the differences back and forth between the two. Use many comparison terms.
Notes about the Item-Item (Point-by-Point) organizational plan:
This is the most sophisticated format, and it is usually the most successful.
Choose items/points on which to compare the two, and then write a paragraph on each item/point.
Example: You are comparing your two cousins. Your three main items/points of comparison are their appearances, their personalities, and their lifestyles.
Body paragraph 1: You might explain how similar they are in appearance.
Body paragraph 2: You might discuss how some aspects of their personalities are similar (they both have a good sense of humor) and how some are different (one cousin is quieter than the other).
Body paragraph 3: You might show how one prefers to stay home while the other goes out frequently; one is an accountant while the other is a test pilot; one may keep his house and yard neat and clean while the other's house and yard are usually messy.
You should have 3-5 items/points, but you can have only 2. These would be longer paragraphs than if you had more items.
Remember to move back and forth between your two compared people or things throughout the essay. Doing this assures that you are actually making comparisons and contrasts. Avoid simply writing about one in the first half and the other in the second. When you do this, you run the risk of not really doing any comparing at all.
Use appropriate comparison words and transitions:
Similarities: like, alike, similar, also, in agreement, agree, share, in common, in accord, likewise
Differences: differ, difference, but, yet, however, in contrast, on the contrary, on the other hand, disagree, whereas
Degrees of similarity and difference: more, most, less, few, fewer, bigger, smaller, taller, shorter