Organizing Compare-Contrast Paragraphs

Comparing Two Subjects in Two Paragraphs

Hands holding multi-colored discs in landscape
Andy Ryan/Stone/Getty Images

Organizing two compare-and-contrast paragraphs is just a mini version of creating a compare-and-contrast essay. This kind of essay examines two or more subjects by comparing their similarities and contrasting their differences. In the same way, compare-contrast paragraphs compare and contrast two things in two separate paragraphs. There are two basic methods for organizing compare-contrast paragraphs: the block format and a format where the writer separates similarities and differences.

Block Format

When using the block format for a two-paragraph comparison, discuss one subject in the first paragraph and the other in the second, as follows:

Paragraph 1: The opening sentence names the two subjects and states that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences. The remainder of the paragraph describes the features of the first subject without referring to the second subject.

Paragraph 2: The opening sentence must contain a transition showing you are comparing the second subject to the first, such as: "Unlike (or similar to) subject No. 1, subject No. 2..." Discuss all the features of subject No. 2 in relation to subject No. 1 using compare-contrast cue words such as "like," "similar to," "also," "unlike," and "on the other hand," for each comparison. End this paragraph with a personal statement, a prediction or another enlightening conclusion.

Separating Similarities and Differences

When using this format, discuss only the similarities in the first paragraph and only the differences in the next. This format requires careful use of many compare-contrast cue words and is, therefore, more difficult to write well. Create the paragraphs as follows:

Paragraph 1: The opening sentence names the two subjects and states that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences. Continue discussing similarities only using compare-contrast cue words such as "like," "similar to" and "also," for each comparison.

Paragraph 2: The opening sentence must contain a transition showing that you are pivoting to discussing differences, such as: "Despite all these similarities, (these two subjects) differ in significant ways." Then describe all the differences, using compare-contrast cue words such as "differs," "unlike," and "on the other hand," for each comparison. End the paragraph with a personal statement, a prediction, or another compelling conclusion.

Create a Pre-Writing Chart

In organizing compare-contrast paragraphs, using either of the above methods, students may find it helpful to create a compare-contrast-prewriting chart. To create this chart, students would create a three-column table or chart with the following headers topping each column: "Subject 1," "Features," and "Subject 2." Students then list the subjects and features in the appropriate columns.

For example, a student might compare life in the city (Subject No. 1) vs. the country (Subject No. 2). To start, the student would list "Entertainment," "Culture," and "Food," in the rows under the "Features" header. Then, next "Entertainment," the student could list "theaters, clubs" under the "City" header and "festivals, bonfires" under the "Country" header.

Next might be "Culture" in the "Features" column. Next to "Culture," the student would list "museums" in the "City" column and "historic places" under the "Country" column, and so on. After compiling about seven or eight rows, the student can cross out the rows that seem least relevant. Crafting such a chart helps the student create an easy visual aid to help write the compare-contrast paragraphs for either of the previously discussed methods.