10. Paragraph of Comparison and Contrast

Paragraph of Comparison and Contrast

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

In our daily life, we often try to make ideas clearer by relating them to one another. This could be seen in the following daily activities. Before deciding which university to attend, people read college catalogs, find information or talk to other people. To understand the nature of language learning easily, it is sometimes compared to the process of learning to swim. To see the competitive advantages of a new cell phone, its features could be contrasted to the older ones we have been familiar with. Before giving their votes in a general election, intelligent people always contrast the qualities of the candidates. Based on these activities it is clear that relationship comparison and contrast are two analysis methods used by people in daily lives. By means of comparison, people examine how two or more things are similar; by means of contrast people looks at how two or more things are different. In other words, comparison is used when we focus on similarities, and contrast when we focus on differences.

Look at the following example, in which the writer contrasts the potential capabilities of girls and boys.

Differences between the potential of girls’ and boys’ could be observed since their childhood. Female infants speak sooner, have larger vocabularies, and rarely demonstrate speech defects. (Stuttering, for instance, occurs almost exclusively among boys.) Girls exceed boys in language abilities, and this early linguistic bias often prevails throughout life. Girls read sooner, learn foreign languages more easily, and, as a result, are more likely to enter occupations involving language mastery. Boys, in contrast, show an early visual superiority. They are also clumsier, performing poorly at something like arranging a row of beads, but excel at other activities calling on total body coordination. Their attentional mechanisms are also different. A boy will react to an inanimate object as quickly as he will to a person. A male baby will often ignore the mother and babble to a blinking light, fixate on a geometric figure, and at a later point, manipulate it and attempt to take it apart. (From: Scarry & Scarry, 2011: 433)

In the following example, the writer compares the atmosphere of the earth to a window.

The atmosphere of Earth acts like any window in serving two very important functions: to let light in and to permit us to look out and to guard Earth from dangerous or uncomfortable things. A normal glazed window lets us keep our house warm by keeping out cold air. In such a way, the Earth’s atmospheric window helps to keep our planet to a comfortable temperature by holding back radiated heat and protecting us from dangerous levels of ultraviolet light. Just like a window which prevents rain, dirt, and unwelcome insects and animals from coming in, scientists have discovered that space is full of a great many very dangerous things against which our atmosphere guards us. (Adapted from: Brandon & Brandon, 2011: 289).

Approaches to Ordering Material

The first paragraph sample above is a contrastive paragraph, that is, a paragraph which discusses the differences between potential capabilities of girls and boys. Notice how the ideas in this paragraph are organized. The writer starts with the topic sentence. After that, he presents only the first subtopic (potential capabilities of girls) and their specific details. Finally, he focuses on the second subtopic (potential capabilities of boys) and their supporting specific details. Such way of ordering materials, in which a subtopic and its supporting details are presented fully before dealing with another subtopic and its supporting details is called the block method.

The other method for ordering material in a paragraph of comparison or contrast is known as the point-by-point method. In this approach, the writer compares or contrasts point 1 of subtopic 1 to point 1 of subtopic 2. Then he compares or contrasts point 2 of subtopic 1 to point 2 of subtopic 2.  He proceeds until he has covered all the points. This method is used in the second paragraph sample above. The writer begins with the topic sentence. Then he shows how the atmosphere, like a glazed window, lets light in, permits us to look out and guards Earth from dangerous or uncomfortable things. After that he explains that the atmosphere guards Earth against many very dangerous things from the space, like a window prevents rain, dirt, and unwelcome insects and animals from coming in to the house.

Visually, the outline of the point-by-point method and the block method could be compared as follow.

The Point by Point Method

Topic Sentence: Comparison or Contrast between X and Y

A. Sub-topic 1: First Comparison or Contrast

  1. point 1 of X
  2. point 1 of Y

B. Sub-topic 2: Second Comparison or Contrast

  1. point 2 of X
  2. point 2 of Y

C. Sub-topic 3: Second Comparison or Contrast

  1. point 3 of X
  2. point 3 of Y

The Block Method

Topic: Comparison or Contrast between X and Y

A. Features of X

  1. point 1 of X
  2. point 2 of X
  3. point 3 of X

B. Features of Y

  1. point 1 of X
  2. point 2 of X
  3. point 3 of X

Some writers believe that the block method works best for short paragraph, whereas the point-by-point method is often used in longer pieces of writing in which many points of comparison are made. This method helps the reader keep the comparison or contrast carefully in mind at each point.

The skill to use the two methods for ordering materials above is very essential to achieve coherence in a paragraph of comparison and contrast. Another thing that greatly contributes to comparison and contrast coherence is the careful use of transitions. The following transitions are useful to keep in mind when writing a comparison or contrast paragraph.

Transitions Commonly Used in Comparison:

  • in the same way
  • in a similar way
  • and, also, in addition
  • as well as
  • both, neither
  • each of
  • just as…so
  • similar to
  • similarly
  • like
  • moreover
  • too
  • the same

Transitions Commonly Used in contrast:

  • although
  • whereas
  • but
  • however
  • conversely
  • on the other hand
  • on the contrary
  • in contrast
  • while
  • yet
  • unlike
  • different from
  • in contrast with
  • as opposed to

The following are two other sample paragraphs. As you read, pay attention to the approach used for ordering materials and the transitional words employed in each of them.

Both Superman and Batman are heroes, but only one is truly a superhero, and taking into account their upbringing, motives, and criminal targets, that is Batman. Upbringing was not gentle for either. Superman came from Krypton, a planet that was about to self-destruct. His parents sent him as a baby on a spaceship to Earth. There he would be adopted by an ordinary farm family. His adoptive parents named him Clark Kent and reared him well. In the same generation, far away in Gotham, Bruce Wayne, the future Batman, was born to a contented, wealthy family. Tragically, his parents were killed in his presence during a mugging. He inherited the family wealth and was raised by his kindly butler. Those very different backgrounds provided Superman and Batman with powerful but different motives for fighting crime. Superman was programmed in his space capsule to know about the forces of good and evil on Earth and to fight the bad people. Unlike Superman, Batman learned from experience. Both have gone on to fight many bad people, but each one has a special enemy. For Superman, it is Lex Luthor, who has studied Superman and knows all about him, even his outstanding weakness—the mineral Kryptonite. For Batman, it is the Joker, who, as a wicked teenager, was the mugger-murderer of his parents. Many spectacular battles have ensued for both crime fighters, and one has reached the top in his profession. Superman offers overwhelming physical strength against crime, but Batman displays cunning and base passion. As he strikes fear in the hearts of the wicked, he’s not just winning; he is getting even. Most people would cheer Superman on. However, they would identify more with Batman, and he is the superhero. (From: Brandon & Brandon, 2011: 282-283).

Like the early feminist movement, which grew out of the campaign to end slavery, the present day women’s movement has been inspired and influenced by the black liberation struggle. The situation of women and blacks is similar in many ways. Just as blacks live in a world defined by whites, women live in a world defined by males. (The generic term of human being is “man”; “woman” means wife of man.”) To be female or black is to be peculiar; whiteness and maleness are the norm. Newspapers do not have “men’s pages,” nor would anyone think of discussing the “man problem”. Racial and sexual stereotypes also resemble each other: women, like blacks, are said to be childish, incapable of abstract reasoning, innately submissive, biologically suited for menial tasks, emotional, close to nature. (From: McQuade and Atwan, 1980: 216-217)


Brandon, Lee & Brandon. Kelly. 2011. Paragraphs and Essays with Integrated Readings (11th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Scarry, Sandra & Scarry, John. 2011. The Writer’s Workplace with Readings: Building College Writing Skills (7th ed.) Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

McQuade, Donald and Atwan, Robert. 1980. Thinking in Writing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf


9 thoughts on “10. Paragraph of Comparison and Contrast

  1. Pingback: Definition Paragraph Developed by Special Meanings – kuyaberto

  2. Dear Sir, below is my response to Comparison and Contrast Paragraph
    Group B: Contrasting Cultural Approach
    Topic : Raising Children in …. versus ….. cultures

    Raising Children in Different Culture

    Raising children in a Chinese family and in Indonesian family are strikingly different in many ways. For instance, the infant care of each culture is different. In a Chinese family, male babies are valued much more highly than female offspring. Whereas in an Indonesian family, male and females babies are commonly valued same, as it is considered as a gift from God. Another difference is in applying discipline since childhood. Discipline practices in a Chinese family are based on ancient Confucian ethics and the belief that infants arrive from gods with an inherently nature that is to be respected. This belief fosters interdependence within family, requiring that the elders responsibly teach, train, educate, and govern the young. If children disobey the rules, they will suffer the consequences and both parents must have a deal on it. While in an Indonesian family, the applying of discipline is not as firmly as in Chinese family, there is no necessity for an elder to teach or educate the young, unless there is a sincere intention and not imposed. When children break the rules, then they do not suffer the consequences because one of the parents sometimes put pity on them. Also differ in applying of self – reliance spirit. In a Chinese family, children who are good at academic skills, they will be supported as well as possible in continuing study. If children are not good enough at academic skills, they will be equipped with life-trade, so that they are able to run their own businesses and employ many people. Whereas in Indonesian family, children are highly supported to educate as high as possible so that they are able to work in an office with a high position to earn much more salary or probably they become leaders in political parties or even to be a civil servant. To sum up, the future of children is largely determined by the environment in which they were raised.

  3. Dear Sir, below is my response to Comparison and Contrast Paragraph
    Group A: Comparing Two Individuals Who Share Similar Qualities
    Topic : Two Closest Friends

    Amanda and Jennifer

    My two closest friends, Amanda and Jennifer have several things in common. First, they both have been married for more than fifteen years, and whose husbands are sundanese people. Second, both are entrepreneurs, who make their money in property. Amanda has her own private poperty “Happy Property” which is located in Bekasi, whereas Jennifer has her own private property “Harapan Property” which is located in Harapan Indah. A third way in which these two closest friends are similar is that they are both hard workers. For instance, Amanda started her career by becoming a door-to-door sales woman for more than ten years until finally she has her own business. In the same way, Jennifer had been as a sales promotion girl for years and finally has her own private property. Although they rarely traveled together, but they still communicate with each other well.

  4. Greg and Rick

    I can say Greg and Rick are two of my best friends. We have been best buddies since my father was assigned in Paris. They are totally the opposite poles, from physical appearance, personality traits to lifestyles. Physically, Greg has tall body and broad shoulders. He has a kind of muscular figure, yet he’s still a bit skinny. He put Chinese characters tattoo on his right hand when he worked in Hong Kong. His thin brown hair looks like a toupee on his head. That’s why he doesn’t want to let his hair long. While Rick has short body compare to common westerners. He has plump and hairy body. He has thick blonde hair, including his eyelashes. It makes him looks charming to girls. For me, Greg is totally more independent than Rick. Greg prefers to take care of everything by himself. He can work everywhere he wants and he is able to fulfill the deadlines. Even though he looks indifferent to other people, he has attention and knows what is going on around him. The opposite, Rick is totally dependent person. He would rather call me to take care of his needs. He can’t really focus on his work when I’m not around him. As the result, he keeps delaying his work. And his laid-back personality supports his weaknesses in working performance. Somehow, with his charm, he can manipulate people with his caring. He looks care for other people. To please people around him, Rick is willing to spend more money. He thinks spending money for friends is worth to make them stay loyal to him. He often takes his friends to expensive restaurants. On the other hand, Greg doesn’t really care about getting friends. He considers good friends as people who can take him as he is. He prefers to spend his money to his interests. Most of weekends, he goes outside to enjoy outdoor activities. He enjoys snorkeling a lot. He also likes to cycle on the mountain and play tennis. After that, he spends his time in his rent house alone reading books or cleaning house. Even so, they are my closest friends and we often hang out together. Yet, they never talk about their personal issues to me at the same time. The most important thing is that we respect and care about each other. It has sealed our friendship for long time.

  5. Women’s Roles in Two Sides of The World: Eastern and Western

    There is no doubt that easterners have different cultures from westerners. Culture history, demography and values affect the differences. Long time ago, before the pioneers of American settlers migrated to America, they did the same roles as Asian women did. They had to follow husbands, stay at home doing chores and taking care of the children. As a group of people decided to migrate to America land and start a new life, women’s roles were a bit different. There was a time when husband died and wife independently had to take care of everything by herself. Not to mention the American demography really gave hard time to the pioneers at that time. So, men and women needed to work hand-in-hand to build a new life. Women had to be able to keep her property from dangers. They needed to learn how to use guns and how to protect their children from wild animals. Women also had to be smart. When they couldn’t find any soaps for laundry, then they tried to find out the solution. These matter made American women are stronger and more independent than before. They value family much and will do everything for their children. The impact is that divorce is not really a big problem for them because they can stand on their own feet. If men aren’t in the same page about life, divorce is the solution and they will fight for custody because children are the most important for women. Indonesian women also have the same basic roles as any women around the world: staying at home, taking care of children and doing chores. The thing is that Indonesian women are not as independent as Americans. At some points, cultures let them be dependent to men or big family. Women basically don’t have choices and take decisions for what they want and need in life. The fertile land of Indonesia has shaped Indonesians to be so laid back people that they believed that they would live peacefully. So, women didn’t really feel a hard time to live and men’s leadership was going smoothly. There is no significant moment when women really need to struggle for their own. That is true that there are many worker women nowadays; and there are many women leading from manager to CEO level positions. Even so, culture values still wrap Indonesian women tightly that status is still important. Believe it or not, Indonesian women still think that they can’t live completely as women without men. Marriage is still the best way to find happiness; giving decision fully to men is the best way to avoid fights; men must be the head of the family and as a result they have to earn much money then women do; and so on. I can say that history, demography and values give huge impacts to women’s roles. American and Indonesian women definitely have different point of views about life. Nevertheless, women have the same right as men.

  6. Dear Mr. Parlin,
    Below are my paragraph:

    Group A: Comparing Two Individuals Who Share Similar Qualities: Two favorite singers
    My favorite singers are Sari Simorangkir (Sari) and Jacqlien Cellose (JC). Just as Sari so JC gifted with enormous singing talent. They both have wonderful voice and in addition often create them songs. In the same way they have been a blessing to many lives, their music and songs have become anthem of worship in church nationwide. Each of them specializes to serve God in Indonesian Christian music. Moreover they both have been married and having children but they’re still consistently singing and serving God. They believe that God has blessed them with singing talent that has to be treasured and developed well.

    Group B: Contrasting Cultural Approach: Raising Children in Javanese versus Bataknese cultures.
    Raising children in Javanese culture are different from Bataknese culture. Javanese culture that guide in the process of children care have the meaning that the children are entrusted of God which should be well educated in order to know the rules of Javanese culture and have a good personality. They include the supervision of religious values, manners, obedience to parents, discipline, responsibility, and independence. On the other hand for Bataknese, children are the most precious treasure, honor, as well as wealth for the parents. This drives them to educate their children and trying to get the highest possible education and in families they instill values of hard work, never give up, and tenacity. As we can see the result, Javanese are calm while Bataknese are tough.


  7. Dear all attendees of Writing 2,
    Write a paragraph on each of the following groups of topic. Feel free to choose the topic you like most in each group. Write each paragraph in 80-120 words.

    Group A: Comparing Two Individuals Who Share Similar Qualities
    1. Two Great Politicians
    2. Two Closest friends
    3. Two favorite singers
    4. My Parents

    Group B: Contrasting Cultural Approach
    1. Student-Teacher relationship in Indonesian versus in American Secondary School
    2. Attitudes toward women’s role in Indonesia versus Western Culture
    3. Raising Children in …. versus ….. cultures.
    4. Courtship in two different cultures

    Good luck!

  8. Pingback: 8. Paragraph of Comparison and Contrast « PARLINDUNGAN PARDEDE

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