Methods For Arranging A Comparison And Contrast Essay

Two Effective Ways on Comparison and Contrast Essay Writing

Comparison and contrast essay writing is not that simple but it can very easy if you understand the different ways on doing it. If you think that when doing a comparison and contrast essay writing, you would only list down all the similarities and differences of two particular things then you’re wrong. There’s more to it than that kind of simple, spontaneous writing.

Comparison and contrast essay writing is done with a plan. You call this an outline. Every kind of essay, not just the comparison and contrast essay, need to have an outline before it becomes a good essay piece. An outline allows you to organize your ideas so that you can present them in a clear and coherent manner.

While you make your outline, you have to think which style of arrangement you’re going to use. There are two classic comparison and contrast essay writing style you: the block arrangement and the alternating arrangement. The two styles are further explained in the next two paragraphs.

Comparison and Contrast Essay Writing Style: Block Arrangement

In using the block arrangement, you’re going to describe each of the two things you’re comparing (object A and object B) in two separate paragraphs. You’re going to make statements about object A to form a single paragraph. You do the same for object B in the next paragraph. While writing your paragraphs, make sure that every statement from your object A paragraph has a corresponding statement in your object B paragraph. In that way, although you’re not directly comparing the two, the comparison can be easily identified by the readers coherently.

To further understand the block arrangement style, take a look at the following outline:

  1. Introduction (object A is World War I and object B is World War II)
  2. World War I
    1. Reason
    2. Countries Involved in the War
    3. Outcome
  3. World War II
    1. Reason
    2. Countries Involved in the War
    3. Outcome
  4. Conclusion

Comparison and Contrast Essay Writing Style: Alternating Arrangement

The second style of comparison and contrast essay writing is the alternating arrangement. This is also known as point by point arrangement. In this style, you’re going to make a paragraph focusing on a particular area or category of discussion. On that paragraph, you’re going to directly compare object A and object B. Just like how its name says, you’re going to compare the two things “point by point.”

Take a look at the outline below to further understand the alternating arrangement style for your comparison and contrast essay writing:

  1. Introduction (object A is World War I and object B is World War II)
  2. Reason for the War
    1. World War I
    2. World War II
  3. Countries Involved in the War
    1. World War I
    2. World War II
  4. Outcomes of the Wars
    1. World War I
    2. World War II
  5. Conclusion

Learning Objectives

  1. Determine the purpose and structure of comparison and contrast in writing.
  2. Explain organizational methods used when comparing and contrasting.
  3. Understand how to write a compare-and-contrast essay.

The Purpose of Comparison and Contrast in Writing

Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different. A compare-and-contrast essay, then, analyzes two subjects by comparing them, contrasting them, or both.

The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. The purpose of conducting the comparison or contrast is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Drawing distinctions between elements in a similar category will increase the audience’s understanding of that category, which is the purpose of the compare-and-contrast essay.

Similarly, to focus on comparison, choose two subjects that seem at first to be unrelated. For a comparison essay, you likely would not choose two apples or two oranges because they share so many of the same properties already. Rather, you might try to compare how apples and oranges are quite similar. The more divergent the two subjects initially seem, the more interesting a comparison essay will be.

Writing at Work

Comparing and contrasting is also an evaluative tool. In order to make accurate evaluations about a given topic, you must first know the critical points of similarity and difference. Comparing and contrasting is a primary tool for many workplace assessments. You have likely compared and contrasted yourself to other colleagues. Employee advancements, pay raises, hiring, and firing are typically conducted using comparison and contrast. Comparison and contrast could be used to evaluate companies, departments, or individuals.

Exercise 1

Brainstorm an essay that leans toward contrast. Choose one of the following three categories. Pick two examples from each. Then come up with one similarity and three differences between the examples.

  1. Romantic comedies
  2. Internet search engines
  3. Cell phones

Exercise 2

Brainstorm an essay that leans toward comparison. Choose one of the following three items. Then come up with one difference and three similarities.

  1. Department stores and discount retail stores
  2. Fast food chains and fine dining restaurants
  3. Dogs and cats

The Structure of a Comparison and Contrast Essay

The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader. Take the following thesis as an example that leans more toward contrasting.

Thesis statement: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.

Here the thesis sets up the two subjects to be compared and contrasted (organic versus conventional vegetables), and it makes a claim about the results that might prove useful to the reader.

You may organize compare-and-contrast essays in one of the following two ways:

  1. According to the subjects themselves, discussing one then the other
  2. According to individual points, discussing each subject in relation to each point

See Figure 10.1 “Comparison and Contrast Diagram”, which diagrams the ways to organize our organic versus conventional vegetables thesis.

Figure 10.1 Comparison and Contrast Diagram

The organizational structure you choose depends on the nature of the topic, your purpose, and your audience.

Given that compare-and-contrast essays analyze the relationship between two subjects, it is helpful to have some phrases on hand that will cue the reader to such analysis. See Table 10.3 “Phrases of Comparison and Contrast” for examples.

Table 10.3 Phrases of Comparison and Contrast

ComparisonContrast
one similarityone difference
another similarityanother difference
bothconversely
likein contrast
likewiseunlike
similarlywhile
in a similar fashionwhereas

Writing a Comparison and Contrast Essay

First choose whether you want to compare seemingly disparate subjects, contrast seemingly similar subjects, or compare and contrast subjects. Once you have decided on a topic, introduce it with an engaging opening paragraph. Your thesis should come at the end of the introduction, and it should establish the subjects you will compare, contrast, or both as well as state what can be learned from doing so.

The body of the essay can be organized in one of two ways: by subject or by individual points. The organizing strategy that you choose will depend on, as always, your audience and your purpose. You may also consider your particular approach to the subjects as well as the nature of the subjects themselves; some subjects might better lend themselves to one structure or the other. Make sure to use comparison and contrast phrases to cue the reader to the ways in which you are analyzing the relationship between the subjects.

After you finish analyzing the subjects, write a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and reinforces your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample compare-and-contrast essay.

Writing at Work

Many business presentations are conducted using comparison and contrast. The organizing strategies—by subject or individual points—could also be used for organizing a presentation. Keep this in mind as a way of organizing your content the next time you or a colleague have to present something at work.

Exercise 4

Choose one of the outlines you created in Note 10.75 “Exercise 3”, and write a full compare-and-contrast essay. Be sure to include an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, well-defined and detailed paragraphs, and a fitting conclusion that ties everything together.

Key Takeaways

  • A compare-and-contrast essay analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
  • The purpose of writing a comparison or contrast essay is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two subjects.
  • The thesis should clearly state the subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and it should state what is to be learned from doing so.
  • There are two main organizing strategies for compare-and-contrast essays.

    1. Organize by the subjects themselves, one then the other.
    2. Organize by individual points, in which you discuss each subject in relation to each point.
  • Use phrases of comparison or phrases of contrast to signal to readers how exactly the two subjects are being analyzed.

This is a derivative of Writing for Success by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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