Comparison and Contrast

Paragraphs
Some TOEFL writing topics will ask you to consider the relationship between two
things, for example, your hometown (that is, the town where you were born or grew
up) and your university town. Such topics may allow you to organize your essay either
around the similarities between these two subtopics (for example, between your
hometown and your university town) or around the differences between them. If you
write about the similarities, the essay will be a comparison essay. On the other hand,
if you want to write about the differences, your essay will be a contrast essay.
This lesson will show you some ways in which you can structure sentences to write a
comparison or contrast paragraph. We will first look at comparison paragraphs and
then briefly look at contrast paragraphs.

Comparison Paragraphs Organized by Similar Points
Consider the following paragraph:
My hometown and my college town have several things in
common. First, both are small rural communities. For example, my
hometown, Gridlock, has a population of only about 10,000 people.
Similarly, my college town, Subnormal, consists of about 11,000
local residents. This population swells to 15,000 people when the
college students are attending classes. A second way in which these
two towns are similar is that they are both located in rural areas.
Gridlock is surrounded by many acres of farmland which is devoted
mainly to growing corn and soybeans. In the same way, Subnormal
lies in the center of farmland which is used to raise hogs and cattle
....
(Note: The four dots [ . . . . ] at the end of this paragraph mean that the paragraph
contains more sentences that are not shown here.)
The passage above is from a comparison paragraph. that is, a paragraph which
discusses the similarities between two subtopics. Notice how the ideas in this
paragraph are organized. As usual, the topic sentence is at the beginning of the
paragraph. After that, the paragraph continues by discussing one point of similarity

therefore. Specific details are given to support the statement that "both are small rural communities. . four. This particular paragraph discusses only two points of similarity.between the towns of Gridlock and Subnormal. which is famous for its Agricultural Economics program as well as for its annual Corn-Watching Festival. ] at the beginning of the above paragraph indicate that the paragraph contains previous sentences that are not shown here. Thirdly. (Note: The three dots [ . . this comparison paragraph is structured (organized) according to the points of similarity between the two towns. Likewise.  Subnormal has about 11. This paragraph. DETAIL (b) .  It has about 4000 college students. for example. but of course we can imagine a paragraph that gives three." As you can see.Organized by Similar Points TOPIC SENTENCE My (a) hometown and (b) college town are similar. that is. the paragraph briefly discusses a second point of similarity between the two towns. that they are "both located in rural areas. is home to Neutron College. their small population. might continue in this way: .000 local residents. both of these towns are similar in that both contain college campuses. namely. their geographic surroundings. namely. the paragraph also gives supporting details to illustrate their similarity. for example. POINT #1 Both are small rural communities. the town of Subnormal boasts the beautiful campus of Quark College. or even more points of similarity. Here. .) We can place the points of similarity and their supporting details in a table in order to see more clearly how this short paragraph is organized: Comparison Paragraph -. . Gridlock. which is well known for its Agricultural Engineering department and also for its yearly Hog-Calling Contest. DETAIL (a)  Gridlock has about 10.000 people." Following this.

 Subnormal contains Quark College.  This campus is famous for its Agricultural Engineering department.  Subnormal is in the center of land used for raising hogs.  Gridlock is home to Neutron College. or main supporting .  This farmland is devoted to growing corn.  It is also famous for its yearly HogCalling Contest. but according to subtopic.POINT #2 DETAILS (a) Both are located in rural areas. DETAILS (b) POINT #3 DETAILS (a) DETAILS (b) Both towns contain college campuses. A subtopic is a main example. Comparison Paragraphs Organized by Subtopic Another way of organizing a comparison is not according to supporting details that are similar.  The land is also used to grow soybeans.  It is also famous for its annual CornWatching Festival.  This land is also used to raise cattle.  Gridlock is surrounded by many acres of farmland.  This college is famous for its Agricultural Economics program.

having a population of about 11. called Quark College. o It is surrounded by many acres . Subnormal lies in the center of farmland which is used to raise hogs and cattle. Gridlock. my hometown. we can illustrate this paragraph's structure in the following way: Comparison Paragraph -. it too is small. Finally. Look at the following example. First. Gridlock also contains a college campus. based on the above paragraph: My hometown and my college town have several things in common. which swells to 15.000 people.Organized by Subtopic TOPIC SENTENCE SUBTOPIC #1: DETAILS ABOUT GRIDLOCK: My hometown and college town are similar. GRIDLOCK  Gridlock is a small town. As for my college town.000 people.idea. Neutron College. then discussing those of the second subtopic.  Gridlock is in a rural area. It has a population of only about 10.000 people when students from the nearby college are attending classes. is a small town. this paragraph first discusses the relevant details about Gridlock and then presents the details about Subnormal.000 local residents. that illustrates the topic sentence of a paragraph. Gridlock is surrounded by many acres of farmland which are devoted mainly to growing corn and soybeans. Subnormal is similar to Gridlock in that it also boasts a beautiful college campus. That is. Subnormal. which is famous for its Agricultural Economics program as well as for its annual CornWatching Festival. This college is well known for its Agricultural Engineering department and also for its yearly HogCalling Contest. o It has about 10. we can organize the paragraph by first discussing all the relevant points associated to one subtopic. As with the paragraph above. Like Gridlock. after the topic sentence. Located in a rural area. As you can see.

o This farmland is devoted to growing corn. o The land is also used to grow soybeans.of farmland. o This campus is famous for its Agricultural Engineering department. o Subnormal has about 4000 college students.  Gridlock is home to Neutron College. o This college is famous for its Agricultural Economics program. SUBTOPIC#2: DETAILS ABOUT SUBNORMAL: SUBNORMAL  Subnormal is a small town. o Subnormal is in the center of land used for raising hogs.000 local residents.  Subnormal contains Quark College. o This land is also used to raise cattle. .  Subnormal is in a rural area. o It is also famous for its annual Corn-Watching Festival. o It has about 11.

Similarly. which is well known for its Agricultural Engineering department and also for its yearly Hog-Calling Contest. First. Gridlock.. This population swells to 15. Gridlock. has a population of only about 10. my hometown. is a small town. is home to Neutron College.000 people. This paragraph. for example. Notice how the ORDER of the similarities is the same throughout the paragraph. Subnormal lies in the center of farmland which is used to raise hogs and cattle. Gridlock is surrounded by many acres of farmland which is devoted mainly to growing corn and soybeans.. which is organized by subtopic: My hometown and my college town are similar in several ways. That is. First. Located in a rural area. Comparison Conjunctions In the above paragraphs you will see various conjunctions that contribute to paragraph coherence. is organized according to similarities. Thirdly. the town of Subnormal boasts the beautiful campus of Quark College.X are similar in that. the paragraph first discusses Gridlock and then it discusses Subnormal. both are small rural communities. which is famous for its Agricultural Economics program as well as for its annual Corn-Watching Festival.. my college town. at each similar point.o It is also famous for its yearly Hog-Calling Contest. consists of about 11. It has a population of only about 10. In the same way. Subnormal. Also notice how the conjunctions (for example. and . Gridlock is surrounded by many acres of farmland which are devoted mainly to ..) are placed near each similar point.000 people when the college students are attending classes. my hometown. A second way in which these two towns are similar is that they are both located in rural areas. of course. Keeping the same order throughout the paragraph prevents the reader from getting confused. similarly. Now examine the following paragraph. Gridlock. these towns are similar in that they contain college campuses.000 people.000 local residents. For example. Likewise. We can look at the above paragraphs again to see how the conjunctions are used: My hometown and my college town have several things in common.

Another way in which X is similar to Y is (that).000 local residents.. it too is small.. too. . That is. As for my college town.S. These are not the only ways to give coherence to a comparison paragraph. X is similar to Y in that (they)... having an area of only 1. Here is an example of such a paragraph organized by subtopic.. Here is a list of comparison conjunctions you can use: Short Conjunctions Similarly. called Quark College... Like Gridlock... Notice the contrastive expressions in bold letters: Even though Arizona and Rhode Island are both states of the U.... Finally.214 square miles. too. Subnormal is similar to Gridlock in that it also boasts a beautiful college campus..the same. whereas Rhode Island is only about a tenth the size. There are other conjunctions. having an area of 114. Likewise. In like manner. they are strikingly different in many ways. both Longer Expressions In the same way. which swells to 15. Subnormal. Another difference is in the size of the population of each state.. . Contrast Paragraphs As mentioned above. This college is well known for its Agricultural Engineering department and also for its yearly Hog-Calling Contest.. You can organize contrast paragraphs in much the same way that you can organize comparison paragraphs.the same as.....000 square miles. you can organize them either according to points of similarity or according to subtopic.also. having a population of about 11... Arizona is large. a contrast paragraph discusses the differences between (at least) two things. Arizona has about .. One way in which X is similar to Y is (that). the physical size of each state is different.growing corn and soybeans. Subnormal lies in the center of farmland which is used to raise hogs and cattle. Like X.000 people when students from the nearby college are attending classes. X and Y are similar in that (they).. Neutron College. For example.. Gridlock also contains a college campus. which is famous for its Agricultural Economics program as well as for its annual Corn-Watching Festival. ... Y [verb]. .

while Arizona is a landlocked state and thus has no seashore. The two states also differ in the kinds of natural environments that each has. Arizona is a very dry state. but ... . Rhode Island is located in a temperate zone and receives an average of 44 inches of rain per year.. even though + [sentence] although + [sentence] whereas + [sentence] unlike + [sentence] while + [sentence] nevertheless.. but Rhode Island has less than one million. In contrast..four million people living in it. Rhode Island lies on the Atlantic Ocean and does have a significant coastline. Here are some contrast conjunctions that you can use: Short Conjunctions However. For example. In addition. yet Subordinating Conjunctions On the other hand.. However. By contrast. . consisting of large desert areas that do not receive much rainfall every year.