Paragraphs of Comparison
The comparison essay is used to highlight similarities between things. In order to do this you have to make sure that you have picked two things which are actually comparable. They need to share some features. This can be done for humorous effect when comparing things that are not normally compared. For example, like categories of things (like people, places and things) are what we usually compare. People are generally compared to other people, but if you decide to compare your friend to a garbage dump it can be quite funny.
Let's look at a sample comparison paragraph and analyze the structure and expressions used.
It's really hard to choose between the two applicants, Sebastian Slime and Mordecai Rossi, because they have so much in common. Firstly, they each have an MBA from Harvard and performed equally well in their course work. Since finishing graduate school, Sebastian has been able to use his personality to assume a responsible position in a trade company. In the same way, Mordecai has been able to assume a responsible position in a manufacturing company. Both seem to have performed well in those jobs. What is most remarkable though, is that they have identical hobbies and are members of the same clubs. They enjoy skiing, golf and bridge and have membership of the Snob Valley Country Club and the Brown Nose Beach Bridge Association.
The topic sentence should clearly indicate that the paragraph's purpose is that of comparison and also clearly indicate what is being compared. In this case, the words much in common indicate that the paragraph is a comparison. Sebastian Slime and Mordecai Rossi are the two applicants being contrasted.
Here`s another, similar, paragraph to look at.
It is really hard to choose between the two applicants, Sebastian Slime and Mordecai Rossi, because they have so much in common. Sebastian Slime completed his MBA at Harvard and performed well in his course work. Since finishing graduate school, he has used his personality to assume a position of responsibility in a company and perform well in that job. His hobbies include skiing, golf and bridge and he maintains membership of the Snob Valley Country Club and the Brown Nose Bridge Club. Similarly, Mordecai Rossi completed his MBA at Harvard and performed well in his course work. Since finishing graduate school he has also used his personality to assume a position of responsibility in a company and perform well in that job. Remarkably, he too enjoys skiing, golf and bridge and maintains membership of the Snob Valley Country Club and the Brown Nose Beach Bridge Club.
The two paragraphs differ in how the points are arranged. In comparison (as well as contrast writing) there are basically two ways of organizing points; according to point or according to subject. The first paragraph is organized according to point, while the second one is organized by subject. It is impossible to say which way is better it is up to you to choose which ever one you like better. Just make sure that you pick one of them and stick to it. Do not switch organization patterns in the middle of your writing.
Comparison and Contrast Paragraphs
Skills in writing comparisons and contrasts are very useful and are needed in many situations such as in college and business. Literature majors, for example, may be required to compare and/or contrast two characters in a play by Shakespeare. Your boss may want you to survey certain equipment the company is considering buying and prepare a report contrasting the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.
In all these examples and in general, contrast and comparison writing is used to gain further understandings of a thing, person or place in relation to another.
The Contrast Paragraph
The contrast paragraph is used to highlight differences. You might be contrasting the physical appearance of two brothers, the differences between two universities or two types of music. Let`s begin by studying 2 contrast paragraphs and analyzing the structure and expressions used.
There are many differences between my two brothers, Paul and Patrick. Paul is very tall and muscular whereas Patrick is very short and thin. Paul likes energetic hobbies like basketball, boxing and soccer unlike Patrick who prefers sedentary hobbies like stamp collecting and chess. Paul really dislikes studying and does very poorly in exams but Patrick loves study and is one of the brightest students in his class. Paul wants to be famous for his sporting achievements in contrast to Patrick who wants to be famous for his academic achievements.
The topic sentence of a contrasting paragraph should always contain a clue that the writing which follows is a contrast. In this example, the topic sentence (the 1st sentence) contains the word `differences` which indicates that a contrast will follow. It should also clearly indicate what or who is being contrasted - the subjects
Note that transitional expressions are frequently used in this paragraph.
The paragraph has been written by dealing with each point separately. The author contrasts Paul and Patrick in terms of physical appearance, followed by hobbies, study attitude and academic ability and lastly, in terms of ambition. The paragraph outline could be represented as follows:
Point 1. Paul and Patrick
Point 2. Paul and Patrick
Point 3. Paul and Patrick
Point 4. Paul and Patrick
Now read the following paragraph which also compares the two brothers but organizes the ideas differently:
There are many differences between my two brothers, Paul and Patrick. Paul is very tall and muscular and enjoys active hobbies like basketball, boxing and soccer. He dislikes studying and does poorly in exams. Paul`s ambition is to be famous for his sporting achievements. Patrick, on the other hand, is very short and thin and enjoys sedentary hobbies like stamp collecting and chess. He loves studying and is one of the brightest students in his class. Patrick`s ambition is to be famous for academic achievements.
The information contained in the two examples are the same and the topic sentences are identical. The difference is in the arrangement of information. In the first paragraph, the information is organized by point whereas is the second paragraph, the information is arranged according to subject (Paul and Patrick). This difference will be much clearer if we view the paragraph outline below.
Paul Point 1
Patrick Point 1
Notice that in this arrangement, only one transitional expression is used.
Which arrangement is better? Which one makes easier reading? Generally, the first arrangement is preferred when there are many points. It makes it easier to go back and forth so that the reader can keep the contrasts in mind. For example, if we used the second arrangement for something with 20 points, the first few points about A would probably be forgotten by the time the reader gets to read about the first few points about B thus making contrast difficult. On the other hand, the second arrangement is preferred when there are only a few points. In this case, the paragraph reads much more smoothly. The first arrangement would seem monotonous and a little redundant for short paragraphs. Look at the paragraphs about Paul and Patrick: the second arrangement is preferred because there is only a small amount of information in 4 points.
* Written by Stephen van Vlack for his class, Advanced Speaking and Composition, in Sookmyung Women¡¯s University.