Comparison and Contrast

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A science writer uses comparison and contrast to begin a essay. Writers frequently develop an essay or an argument by showing similarities and differences between two or more people, things or events. The pattern often works well to unify a piece of writing and emphasize important point.

For Example :

In the following opening paragraph a science writer uses comparison and contrast to begin a essay about the public relations campaign that affected tuna fishing;

The yellow fin tuna is not celebrated for its intelligence. It’s celebrated for its flavor. The spotted dolphin, on the other hand, is famously brainy and no one will tell us how it tastes. The killing of dolphins is a national outrage. The killing of tuna is a given. There are some good reasons and some bad reasons, I think, which haven’t been closely examined or even sorted apart. (David Quammen : Who Swims With Tuna?)

Here’s another comparison written in a straightforward but colorful style that alternates contrasting statements about two contrasting men.

They were the odd couple of American politics: Kennedy the charming aristocrat, debonair, self – confident and beloved and Nixon the perpetual outsider, calculating self – conscious and maligned. One would be remembered as the martyred king of Camelot and the other as Tricky Dick, the dark price who resigned the presidency in shame. The two men began together in congress as friends and later became bitter rivals for the highest office in the land. They would go down in history, in Nixon’s own words, as a pair of unmatched bookends. (Michiko Kauai : Competition that made Kennedy and Nixon foes)

Analogy :

An analog is a form of comparison that seeks to explain the unknown by comparing it to something that is familiar to the reader. Analogies can take the form of metaphors (the heart is a pump) or similes (a humming bird is like a tiny helicopter) or can be more elaborate comparisons. The prizewinning science writer Natalie Angier counts on using analogies to help her readers understand the complex creatures she writes about. She says, “I’ll do anything to come up with similes and metaphors. I do it for myself to make the abstract concrete and I do it in writing to keep the plot going.”

Here is one of her analogies.

They are the P.T. Barnums of the flower kingdom dedicated to the premise that there is a sucker born every minute. A sucker, that is, with wings, a thorax and an unquenchable thirst for nectar and love. They are the orchids, flowers so flashy of hue and fleshy of petal that they seem thoroughly decadent. And when it comes to their wiles for deceiving and sexually seducing insect pollinators, their decadence would make Oscar Wilde wilt. (Natalie Angier : The Grand Strategy of Orchids)

And look at this clever analogy in which the writer draws an extended comparison to suggest that Nielsen report about television rating shoot the bit TV networks as drastically as Galileo’s theories shook his world.

Like Galileo’s that the earth revolves around the sun, the A.C. Nielsen Company’s report of an unexpectedly sharp drop in the notional television audience last winter has altered the accepted view of reality. And like the telescope Galileo used, a new instrument – the people meter – provided the new information. The big three networks are fighting the conclusion and are trying to force the messenger to recant. But like those who believed the sun circles the earth, they seem fated to find themselves on the wrong side of the revolution. (Randall Rothenberg : Black hole in television)

The ability to write such vivid and engaging analogies come in part from talent, of course, but it’s an ability that’s worth your wile to develop regardless of your talent. Writers who want to engage their readers are always looking for the striking comparison, the right image that will clarify the unknown by linking it to the familiar.

Other Pages in This Section :

Reasoning from Evidence

Assertion and Support


Cause and Effect



Choosing and Combining Patterns

Successful Writing Index

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