Comparison in Composition

A child in a toy car alongside Frank Clement and Woolf Barnato in a Bentley Speed 6 racing car (1930)
(National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

In composition, comparison is a rhetorical strategy and method of organization in which a writer examines similarities and/or differences between two people, places, ideas, or things.
Words and phrases that often signal a comparison include similarly, likewise, by comparison, by the same token, in like manner, in the same way, and in a similar fashion.

Comparison (often referred to as comparison and contrast) is one of the classical rhetorical exercises known as the progymnasmata.

Comparison/Contrast Essays

Style Scrapbook


From the Latin, "compare."

Examples and Observations

  • "A car is useless in New York, essential everywhere else. The same with good manners."
    (Mignon McLaughlin, The Complete Neurotic's Notebook. Castle Books, 1981)
  • "The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way. He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse's sharp nose, a mouse's tail, a mouse's whiskers, and the pleasant, shy manner of a mouse. Before he was many days old he was not only looking like a mouse but acting like one, too--wearing a gray hat and carrying a small cane."
    (E.B. White, Stuart Little. Harper, 1945)
  • "Must a powerful fairy like myself condescend to explain her doings to you who are no better than an ant by comparison, though you think yourself a great king?"
    (Andrew Lang, "The Wonderful Sheep." The Blue Fairy Book, 1889)
  • "Immigrants in Canada are . . . more culturally similar to the native population than immigrant groups in other nations. Canadian immigrants nationalize at very high rates. They participate in the labor force at rates similar to the native population; their unemployment is lower; their occupational prestige is similar; and their income is the same as the native population."
    (J.P. Lynch and R.J. Simon, Immigration the World Over. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003)
    • establish a clear basis for comparison;
    • make a thorough and specific presentation; and
    • provide an effective arrangement for the material.
  • Comparison and Contrast Essays
    To gain the most from your use of comparison and contrast, . . . you need to(W.J. Kelly, Strategy and Structure. Allyn and Bacon, 1999)
  • Arranging Details in Comparison and Contrast Essays
    "Ordering detail in a comparison-contrast essay requires some thought. One possible arrangement is the block pattern whereby all the points about one subject are made (in a block) then all the points about the other subject are made (in a second block). . . .
    "A second possible arrangement for the details of comparison-contrast is the alternating pattern, whereby a point is made for one subject, then for the other. A second point is made for the first subject, then for the other. This alternating pattern continues until all the points are made for both subjects. . . .
    "In general, the block method works better for essays with fewer points of comparison or contrast that are not extensively developed . . ..
    "An alternating pattern is usually a better choice for an essay with many points of comparison and contrast or an essay with extensively developed ideas."
    (Barbara Fine Clouse, Patterns for a Purpose. McGraw-Hill, 2003)
  • Complaining vs. Moaning
    "Visitors to Britain are rarely able to grasp--sometimes after decades of residency--the vital distinction its inhabitants make between complaining and moaning. The two activities seem similar, but there is a profound philosophical and practical difference. To complain about something is to express dissatisfaction to someone whom you hold responsible for an unsatisfactory state of affairs; to moan is to express the same thing to someone other than the person responsible. The British are powerfully embarrassed by complaining, and experience an almost physical recoil from people who do it in public. They do love to moan though. The background music of British life is a running aria of moaning about pretty much everything--our weather, our politics, our permanently under-performing national sports teams, our reality-TV-obsessed media, and so on. Moaning, a source of entertainment in its own right, is also an important psychic comfort blanket, a way of venting resentment without taking responsibility for effecting change."
    (John Lanchester, "Party Games." The New Yorker, June 7, 2010)
  • European Football vs. American Football
    "Although European football is the parent of American football, the two games show several major differences. European football, sometimes called association football or soccer, is played in more than 80 countries, making it the most widely played sport in the world. American football, on the other hand, is popular only in the United States and Canada. Soccer is played by 11 players with a round ball. Football, also played by 11 players in somewhat different positions on the field, uses an elongated round ball. Soccer has little body contact between players, and therefore requires no special protective equipment. Football, in which players make maximum use of body contact to block a running ball carrier and his teammates, requires special headgear and padding. In soccer, the ball is advanced toward the goal by kicking it or by butting it with the head. In football, on the other hand, the ball is passed from hand to hand across the opponent's goal. These are just a few of the features that distinguish association and American football."
    (student paragraph, "Football and Soccer")
  • A "Sexist Interlude" by Bill Bryson: Women vs. Men at the Checkout Counter
    "Although the store had only just opened, the food hall was busy and there were long queues at the tills. I took a place in a line behind eight other shoppers. They were all women and they all did the same mystifying thing: They acted surprised when it came time to pay. This is something that has been puzzling me for years. Women will stand there watching their items being rung up, and then when the till lady says, 'That's four pounds twenty, love,' or whatever, they suddenly look as if they've never done this sort of thing before. They go 'Oh!' and start rooting in a flustered fashion in their handbag for their purse or checkbook, as if no one had told them that this might happen.
    "Men, for all their many shortcomings, like washing large pieces of oily machinery in the kitchen sink or forgetting that a painted door stays wet for more than thirty seconds, are generally pretty good when it comes to paying. They spend their time in line doing a wallet inventory and sorting through their coins. When the till person announces the bill, they immediately hand over an approximately correct amount of money, keep their hands extended for the change however long it takes or however foolish they may begin to look if there is, say, a problem with the till roll, and then--mark this--pocket their change as they walk away instead of deciding that now is the time to search for the car keys and reorganize six months' worth of receipts."
    (Bill Bryson, Notes From a Small Island. William Morrow, 1995

Pronunciation: kom-PAR-eh-son

Also Known As: comparison and contrast

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Comparison in Composition." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, September 3). Comparison in Composition. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Comparison in Composition." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).