Writing Well

Alike and Different: Comparison and Contrast

The Short History of Medicine
2000 B.C. Here, eat this root.
1000 A.D. That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 A.D. That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 A.D. That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 A.D. That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2000 A.D. That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh? When you compare, you show how things are alike. When you contrast, you show how they are different. Comparison and contrast is a useful way to organize many term papers, research reports, and feature articles.

Comparison-contrast essays can be organized two ways: point-by-point or chunk. In a point-by-point structure, you deal with each point in turn. In a chunk structure, you discuss one point completely before moving on to the next one. For example:

Point-by-Point Structure Chunk Structure
taxes: Town A, Town B Town A: taxes, education, recreation, jobs
education: Town A, Town B
recreation: Town A, Town B Town B: taxes, education, recreation, jobs
jobs: Town A, Town B

Use these transitions to emphasize similarities: like, likewise, similarly, in the same way, also, as, just as, both. Use these transitions to emphasize differences: instead, rather than, unlike, on the other hand, in contrast with, however, but.

How is the following passage structured, point-by-point, or chunk?

Build We Must

The chunk organization allows the writer to concentrate first on one topic and then the other. Notice how the writer used transitions to show points of similarity (“like”) and difference (“however”).

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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