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Core 110: Effective Writing

Comparison and Contrast

  When we compare two objects, we are pointing out the similarities between two seemingly different objects.  When we contrast two objects, we look at two similar objects and point out how they are really quite different from one another. 

  Comparison and contrast essays can be developed in two different ways: point-by-point (also called the alternating method because we alternate between subject one and subject two for each point) or subject-by-subject (also called the block method because subject one is developed fully in one block and then subject two is fully developed in another block).

  Point-by-point and subject-by-subject are used for different reasons.  Subject-by-subject works well with a short piece of writing but doesn't work well with longer pieces.  In a longer piece, your reader might forget some of the earlier points made.  When writing a longer piece, point-by-point development makes more sense.  In your essay, experiment.  Only you can decide what will work best for the piece you are writing.


1. journal entry:  In your journal, use one of the brainstorming techniques we discussed to come up with a topic.  This will serve as one of your journal entries for the week.  It is a required entry.

2. Decide if you will compare the subjects or contrast the subjects.

3. Choose method of development: point-by-point or subject-by-subject.

4. On a sheet of paper, write the answers to steps one, two, and three.  On that same sheet of paper, create an outline.  Although the outline can be formal or informal, keep in mind that I expect it to be detailed and complete.  Don't be afraid to stray from the outline when writing your draft.  An outline is only a plan and writing is about discovery. 

5. Write your first draft.

6. Write a paragraph outline on a clean sheet of paper.  (If you forget what a paragraph outline is, refer back to your notes on our discussion of Toby Fulwiler's revision chapters from The Working Writer).

7. Begin revision.  Don't wait until I see it to start this process.  Begin fixing what you don't like.

  (Hand in steps 1-7 with your rough draft).

  8. Revise, revise, revise.  Keep revising until you are happy with the draft and you've resolved the problems I've pointed out.

  Topic Suggestion:

Think of two people you know who have the same occupation.  Contrast how those two people perform that occupation.  Be sure to say something larger about the nature of work or that occupation.

  Final Note:  Do not write an essay comparing college to high school.  There is nothing new that you can possibly say about the subject.

To read a sample student essay, select the following link:

   comparison/contrast essay 1