Writing Effective Comparison or Contrast Essays



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Writing Effective Comparison or Contrast Essays

http://eslbee.com/compcont.htm by E. Baack
Introduction -- A Comparison or Contrast essay

  • is an essay in which you either compare something or contrast something.

  • comparison essay -- emphasize the similarities,

  • contrast essay -- emphasize the differences.

  • 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.


Part One -- There are 2 organizational patterns

1. Block arrangement of ideas

2. Point by point or alternating arrangement of ideas.
1. Block Arrangement

  • Contrast the differences between vacationing in the mountains and vacationing at the beach.

  • One way to arrange your material is to use the block arrangement which is to 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


2. Point by Point Arrangment


  • Discuss a particular point about vacationing in the mountains and

  • then immediately to discuss the same point about vacationing at the beach.


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


Part Two -- How to find supporting information for a comparison / contrast essay (handouts pp. 78-79)


  • Choose topics that have something in common, as well as some differences

  • This must be a topic you know something about, or can do some research on (see p. 80 on choosing a good topic)

  • Do some brainstorming

    • Ask yourself questions about the topic: who, what, where, when, why, how?

    • answer the questions

  • Use two columns to note down your ideas so you can see the comparisons and contrasts

  • Use a VENN diagram, that puts the similarities in the middle, between the two lists of differences (handout p. 79)


On board: do some comparisons and contrasts between the beach and the mountains

  • compare and contrast Atar and Nouakchott as places to live

  • compare and contrast French and Arabic schools

  • Compare and contrast horses and camels

  • Compare and contrast life before the drought and life after the drought

  • compare and contrast your grandparents lifestyle and your lifestyle


Part Three -- Practice Writing Outlines in class

  • In Pairs write two outlines:

  • block outline and point by point outline for comparison and contrast




  • For supporting information, you can




    • give a description,

    • give examples

    • give a cause or an effect


Part Four – Connectors (p. 74-75 handout)

  • That Show Comparison

    • in addition

    • similarly

    • likewise

    • compared to

  • That show contrast

    • However,

    • On the other hand

    • in contrast

    • although

    • even though

    • unlike



Application: Block or Point-by-Point
--Examine the comparison or contrast essays that follow, and decide whether the authors used block arrangement or point-by-point (or alternating) arrangement.

--Notice how other authors structure their essays.

--Five paragraphs or four?

--Block arrangement or point-by-point arrangement?

--Noticing these things will help you become a better, more conscious reader and writer.
Vacationing at the Beach or in the Mountains

People are always looking forward to their vacation period. There are many options where to choose. I think that the two most common places people choose for taking a vacation are the beaches and the mountains. Both places offer a variety of fun activities. The beach offers activities that the mountain cannot offer and vice versa. The mountain and the beach are totally different. The purpose of this essay is to contrast the climate, types of activities and locations of beaches and mountains.


I’m going to discuss mountains first. The three aspects I’m going to discuss are climate, types of activities and location. Climate is always important in order to enjoy vacations. If a person dislikes cold weather, he or she might have a hard time in the mountains. The cold climate in the mountains is the first barrier to enjoying them, but the climate and the temperature of these zones also determine the types of activities they offer. Snow boarding, mountain climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and skiing are some activities people can enjoy when going to the mountains. There are many regions that have mountains where people can go and have a great vacation. Canada is a country located in North America and contains many mountain vacation sites where people can go and have fun.
I’m going to discuss the beach second. The three aspects I’m going to discuss are climate, types of activities and location. Warm climate is one of the most important features that the beach has. Sun and fun are two words that describe the beach. The temperature in those places is always hot. The sea and the warm climate determine the activities that are available at the beach. People can swim, play volleyball, play soccer, and ride water bikes. In most coastal sites, there are discos and restaurants where people can dance or party throughout the night. Mexico offers many amazing coastal sites to visit. Acapulco and Cancun are two of the most beautiful and famous beaches in the word.
It doesn’t matter what place a person decides to choose. The fun is 100% guaranteed. People often choose one of these two options to spend their vacations. Depending on what the person likes is what he or she will choose. I like the beach better than the mountains, but sometimes it is better to take a risk and try a different place to enjoy. (399 words)



  • Is the essay above organized using block or point-by-point arrangement of details?

  • Note first the essay is four paragraphs, (1) an introduction, (2) a paragraph about vacationing in the mountains, (3) a paragraph about vacationing at the beach, and (4) a conclusion.

  • This is the block arrangement, the first block containing information about mountains and the second block containing information about the beach.


The following essay contrasts eating fresh foods and canned foods.

  • Is its organization block or point-by-point?

  • How many paragraphs does it contain?

  • How many "differences" between fresh foods and canned foods does the author discuss?


Consuming Fresh Foods Instead of Canned Foods
Eating is an activity that we as humans do at least two times a day. We live in a world where the variety of food is immense, and we are responsible for what we eat. We decide what we are about to eat and how it will affect our bodies. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast the differences between eating fresh foods instead of canned foods. The three main differences are flavor, health benefits, and cost.
The most notable difference between these two kinds of foods is their flavor. Fresh foods have great flavor and taste because they keep all their natural conditions. Canned foods however, lack a lot of its flavor characteristics because there are some other chemical products added to the natural foods. It is logical that the fresh foods will have a greater taste and flavor when consumed just because of the time in which they have been prepared.
Comparing both types of foods we notice another difference. There is a health factor that affects both of them. Canned foods lose some of the original fresh food nutrients when stored, and also it has to be tinned with many conservatives and chemical factors that prolong the shelf life and apparent freshness of the food but could also become toxic if consumed too often.
Yet another difference between these two types of foods is the cost. Canned foods are much more expensive than fresh foods. Here the benefit of buying tinned foods is that they are easier to find, for example, in a supermarket instead of the market like the fresh foods, and they require less work to prepare than fresh foods, just open and serve.
Here are the main three differences between buying fresh foods and buying canned foods. As we can see it comes down to a personal choice, based on the time each person has, the money and the importance he/she gives to his/her nutrition and health. Therefore it is important that you consider your possibilities and choose the best type of foods for your convenience and lifestyle. (347 words)



  • The essay above is the "classic" five paragraph essay that all non-native speakers of English should learn to write.

  • This essays also contains the "classic" point-by-point organization, each point stated and developed in a single paragraph.

  • The essay contains five paragraphs that contrast three differences between fresh and canned foods.

  • The essay includes (1) an introduction, (2) the development of the first difference (flavor), (3) the development of the second difference (health benefits), (4) the development of the third difference (cost), and (5) a conclusion.

  • In the true classic tradition, the three main differences in this contrast essay—flavor, health benefits, and cost—are stated both in the introduction and the conclusion as well.


How to Support Your Point of View though Comparison and Contrast
How to Write an Effective Comparison or Contrast Essay: Summary
1. Know what organizational style you are using.

  • Whether you use the block arrangement or point-by-point arrangement, you should be able to identify it.

  • Being able to identify your organization will not only help you in the organization of your own writing, but it will also help your reader follow the points you make.


2. State your organization.

  • "tell your audience what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them."

  • An important objective in academic writing is clarity, and stating your organization always contributes to clarity. Err on the side of clarity!


3. Keep your audience in mind. Be sure your reader can relate to your topic. After you finish writing, read your essay from the perspective of your audience. How will they respond to your ideas? Will they understand what you have written? Will they agree with your main point? Will the support appear logical to them?
4. Say what you want to say.






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