Compare/Contrast Writing


A Comparison or Contrast essay is an essay in which you either compare something or contrast something. A comparison essay is an essay in which you emphasize the similarities, and a contrast essay is an essay in which you emphasize the differences. We use comparison and contrast thinking when deciding which university to attend, which car to buy, or whether to drive a car or take a bus or an airplane to a vacation site.

In this section, two classic organizational patterns of a comparison or contrast essay will be discussed. One is called block arrangement of ideas; the other is called point-by-point or alternating arrangement of ideas. Suppose you are interested in showing the differences between vacationing in the mountains and vacationing at the beach. You will then write a contrast composition.

One way to arrange your material is to use the block arrangement . You may write about vacationing in the mountains in one paragraph and vacationing at the beach in the next. If you mention a particular point in the mountains paragraph, you must mention the same point in the beach paragraph, and in the same order. Study the following outline, which shows this kind of organization. The introductory paragraph is followed by the mountains paragraph, the beach paragraph, then the conclusion; the fully developed essay is just four paragraphs.


Block Arrangement (four paragraphs)

I. Introduction in which you state your purpose which is to discuss the differences between vacationing in the mountains or at the beach
II. Mountain
A. Climate
B. Types of Activities
C. Location
III. Beach
A. Climate
B. Types of Activities
C. Location
IV. Conclusion


A second way to organize this material is to discuss a particular point about vacationing in the mountains and then immediately to discuss the same point about vacationing at the beach. This is called point-by-point or alternating arrangement. An outline of this organization follows.

Point-by-Point or Alternating Arrangement (five paragraphs)

I. Introduction in which you state your purpose which is to discuss differences between vacationing in the mountains or at the beach
II. First difference between mountains and beaches is climate
A. Mountains
B. Beach
III. Second difference between mountains and beaches are types of activities
A. Mountains
B. Beach
IV. Third difference between mountains and beaches is the location
A. Mountains
B. Beach
V. Conclusion