Discussing Similarities and Differences
When comparing (showing similarities) and contrasting (showing differences) many times you can stay organized by composing two different paragraphs. In these two paragraphs, you will 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, which are included in this handout.
Paragraph 1: You may include a “grabber” for your first sentence, by asking a question or beginning in an interesting way that gets your reader interested right away. Your topic sentence should then name the two subjects and state that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences.
This paragraph should continue by discussing similarities only using compare cue words such as like, similar to, furthermore, moreover, and also for each comparison. The last sentence of this paragraph should sum up the many similarities of these two topics, and transition to the next paragraph.
Paragraph 2: Opening sentence MUST contain a transition showing you are switching to differences. (e.g. Despite all these similarities, [these two subjects] differ in significant ways.)
Then describe all the differences, using contrast cue words such as differs,
unlike, dissimilar, however, in contrast, and on the other hand for each contrasting statement.
End this paragraph with a personal statement about the subject, a prediction, a question, figurative language (simile/metaphor) or another snappy clincher.
What is your favorite pet? People choose their pets for many different reasons, but before you choose, it is important to know how the two most common household pets, cats and dogs, stack up to each other. For example, there are many similarities between these two creatures. Like dogs, cats must be fed at least twice a day. This helps them remain happy, healthy companions. Furthermore, dogs and cats both need lots of attention, or they will misbehave. If an animal feels neglected, they are much more likely to cause problems in your home. Dogs, similar to cats, must also be groomed in order to keep them from dirtying your clean home. A well brushed and washed animal is much more pleasant than a filthy one. While these two lovable creatures share many similarities, they differ in many ways as well.
The differences between these two animals are as clear as night and day. Dogs may leave you pulling out your hair with loud, obnoxious barking. In contrast, cats often only produce the soft lull of a “purr” or “meow”. Dogs are a good source of exercise, because they need to be walked outside. However, cats usually don’t like to be bothered with a leash; they prefer to be independent. On the other hand, a dog can be a pest in the house if they chew up your favorite shoes, while cats aren’t often caught doing such things.
Given these many likenesses, as well as the differences, choosing between these two animals might be as difficult as choosing between ice cream and cake!
Remember, some topics in nonfiction are discussed logically instead of chronologically. For example, When Plague Strikes begins with the symptoms then transitions to causes and onto locations. This is not chronological, but it makes logical sense.
Key words commonly used to express comparison include: like same similar in the same way as too both the same as most important similarly have in common as well as
Key words commonly used to express contrast include: although however yet but whereas while differ unlike even though instead on the contrary on the other hand unless contrary to the reverse
When you compare one subject to another, you show how the two are alike, or similar.
Example: The dog, like the cat, is a household pet.
When you contrast two subjects, you show how they are different.
Example: The dog, unlike the cat, is dependent on its master.
Sometimes, both comparison and contrast are used in the same sentence.
Example: Both the dog and the cat make good household pets, but a dog requires more attention than a cat.