Chapter 9-1: The Compare & Contrast Essay

Writing > Expository Essays > Compare Contrast


In a compare and contrast essay, the writer studies two different subjects and analyzes their similarities, differences, or both.

Example topics:

  • Discuss the similarities of Instagram and Facebook (compare essay)

  • Describe the differences between owning a cat and owning a dog (contrast essay)

  • Examine both the similarities and differences between Canada's and your home country's healthcare system (compare and contrast essay)


A compare and contrast essay has two potential structures: point-by-point and block.

Either of these structures can be used with the five-paragraph approach for an essay:

  • an introductory paragraph

  • three evidentiary body paragraphs

  • a conclusion


Discusses individual points, alternating between subjects

  1. Introduction

  2. Point 1: Subject 1 > Subject 2

  3. Point 2: Subject 1 > Subject 2

  4. Point 3: Subject 1 > Subject 2

  5. Conclusion


Discusses the subjects, first one and then the other

  1. Introduction

  2. Subject 1: Point 1, 2, and 3

  3. Transition Paragraph

  4. Subject 2: Point 1, 2, and 3

  5. Conclusion

Point-by-point Method Example Structure:

1. Intelligence: Dogs vs. cats

2. Financial cost of upkeep: Dogs vs. cats

3. Behavior when the owner is away: Dogs vs. cats

Block Method Example Structure:

1. Dogs: their intelligence, financial cost of upkeep, and behaviour when the owner is away

2. Transition: "While dogs have some advantages over cats, felines also have positive traits."

3. Cats: their intelligence, financial cost of upkeep, and behaviour when the owner is away

Useful Words and Phrases


  • Likewise

  • Similarly

  • Just like

  • In the same way

  • In the same manner

  • both... and...

  • similar to

  • not only... but also...

  • neither... nor...

  • alike

  • Both _________________ and _________________ are ___________________.

  • Just as ____________________ is _________________, _____________________ is also _____________________.

  • ____________________ and __________________ have several things in common.


  • In contrast

  • By contrast

  • However

  • Instead

  • On the contrary

  • Even though

  • On the other hand

  • but

  • unlike

  • while

  • whereas

  • different from

  • While _______________ is _______________, __________________ is ___________________.

  • The main difference between ___________________ and __________________ is __________________.

Compare and Contrast

  • While the similarities between _____________________ and _____________________, the differences are _________________________.

  • Both _________________ and _________________ are ___________________, but they _________________________.

  • At first glance, __________________ and __________________ don't have anything common, but __________________.

Essay Outline

This outline of a point-by-point compare and contrast essay should help you with the content of your essay.

Your Name

Teacher’s Name

Course Title

Due Date

Title: Choose something informative that will let readers know what you plan to compare and/or contrast

Your introduction paragraph will present the two subjects that you plan to compare and/or contrast. You should include a sentence that summarizes whether you will find them similar, different, or both. An interesting compare/contrast essay will contrast things that may seem similar or compare items that at first seem quite different.

Point 1: In this paragraph, address the first point that you will use to compare/contrast between your two subjects. You may write about one for a few sentences, then the next for a few sentences. Or you may choose to combine both subjects into cohesive sentences.

Point 2: Examine the second point of the two subjects in this paragraph. If you're comparing and contrasting, this may be the point where you switch. For example, if you compared similarities in the first point, you could contrast the differences in the second point.

Point 3: The third paragraph will have the final point to compare or contrast the subjects. Many essays end with the biggest or most important difference or similarity.

Summarize your conclusions with your ending paragraph. Are the items more similar than they seem? Are they more different? Or do they have some similarities as well as some differences?

Sample Essay

NOTE: this is a sample essay designed to fit on one page. The number of words that you are required to write, the number of ideas that you are required to express, and the formatting rules you are required to follow may be different for your own assignment. Refer to your assignment instructions for this information.


The MLA format for essays has the following rules:

  • Font: 12pt Times New Roman

  • Margins: One-inch margins in all sides

  • Heading: Left-justified at the beginning of the essay and includes:

    • Your name

    • Teacher's name

    • Course title

    • Due date

  • Paragraphs: Double spaced with indentation on first line

  • In-text citation and paraphrasing format

  • “Works Cited” format

Exercises & Resources

The resources linked below can help you brainstorm topics for your essay. Comparing or contrasting subjects in a table or worksheet can be helpful before you write your complete essay. These can help you make an outline and decide whether to use point-by-point or block structure, as well.

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