Combined Comparison and Contrast

Occasionally, because you wish to achieve a close relationship to two constituent parts of a subject, you may decide to combine comparison and contrast in the same paragraph. If so, you can follow the procedures, suggested earlier, of putting the compared (or contrasted) materials in a single sentence, in alternate sentences, or in groupings of several sentences. Should you use the last of these methods, be sure to insert between the groupings, for the sake of good coherence, some word, phrase, or sentence, that shows you are making a transition from the one to the other.

(1) Swept along on a tide of achievements, both Pompey and Julius Caesar rose to fame in the eyes of the Roman populace, but when Pompey sought to seize the crown of laurel from the more capable Caesar, destiny stepped in. (2) Both Pompey and Julius Caesar were first rate generals supported by personal armies of professional soldiers, and both became contemptuous of the Senate that tried to curb them.(3) The egotistical Pompey began his career with brilliant conquests of Spain and the eastern kingdoms of Alexander, while the no less dashing Caesar thrilled the Roman populace with his nine-year conquest of Gaul. (4) Both realized that the republic had outlived its usefulness, but each wanted to be a dictator. (5) At first they worked together in the First Triumvirate to force reforms upon the unwilling Senate. (6) But eventually Pompey took advantage of Caesar's absence in Gaul to become sole dictator in Rome, whereupon Caesar with one of legions crossed the Rubicon River and accumulated a personal army for his march on Rome. (7) In the battles that followed, Poppey showed bad judgment and was destroyed by Caesar at Pharsalia.

The writer of this paragraph, combining comparison and contrast, wished to show the similarities and the dissimilarities between Pompey and Caesar in their bid for fame. He decided to present the comparisons first, and then the contrasts. Following the topic sentence the writer then expressed the comparative details in the first part of the paragraph and the contrasting material in the last portion. The writer unifies his discussion around the basis of comparison and of contrast - the two Roman generals - and the central focus of their bid for fame. He shows that their lives ay first moved along parallel lines, and then diverged. Structurally, the turn comes when Pompey took advantage of Caesar. Before that moment their interests and actions were similar, and first part of the paragraph is comparison; after that moment their interests and activities were dissimilar, and the rest of the paragraph is contrast, before the turn, both men were successful; afterwards, one went down to defeat, the other rose to power.

This paragraph is also notable for the use in only a few sentences of all the basic materials of paragraph development; detail, illustration, and reason. Sentence 1 is a topic sentence. Sentence 2 compares the two men by means of detail. Sentence 3 uses illustrations. Sentence 4 - reason. Sentence 5 - illustration. Sentence (6) illustration. Sentence 7- reason. Moreover, the transition from comparison to contrast is marked by the words, "But eventually."


An analogy is a detailed comparison. The kind of comparison has two uses. First, in reasoning, it may lead to a conclusion that is true of B, the less well known situation, because it is true of A, when В is like A in other respects. Reasoning by analogy often provides the insights or hunches that result in valuable discoveries. But reasoning by analogy is risky because it assumes that things that resemble each other in some respects do so in all important ones.

City A has parks, attractive residential areas, a university, and good public spirit. City В has parks, attractive residential areas, a university. Therefore, you are asked to believe City В will also have good public spirit. Obviously, such a conclusion does not necessarily follow. City В may have unpleasant town-gown relationships and the people in City В may also be uncooperative in all matters relating to progress. The validity of conclusions based upon this type of analogy must be determined by the facts that exist, not on inferences drawn merely from a set of premises. Such reasoning, however, is outside the purpose of analogy as used in the expository paragraphs which we are considering.

The second use of analogy, which does relate to paragraph writing, is as a way of explaining things. In this kind of analogy, the unfamiliar thing is explained in terms of a familiar one that is similar in certain respects. You use this kind of analogy when you demonstrate the rotation of the earth to a child by means of a ball or top or describe Cape Cod in terms of a human arm bent at the elbow. This kind of analogy is based upon the resemblance, not the actual likeness, between the things compared.

Such analogies occur most frequently in single sentences. For example: The mayorgoverns a citymuch as a captainrules a ship.

(after lecture №4)

Eight important steps are involved in the composition of an essay (developing a theme):

1. Determine the approximate number of paragraphs you will need. A typical, well-developed paragraph averages about 150 words, especially if it is made up primarily or exclusively of major supporting statements. Use of minor supporting material tends to increase the length of a paragraph. A 550-word compositionwill normally have about three paragraphs with the first sentence of the first paragraph serving the dual function of introduction and essay sentence. Then the second sentence becomes the topic sentence of the first paragraph. Such a short theme may have no formal conclusion, the final sentence of the last paragraph serving that purpose.

A 750-word essaysuggests four or five paragraphs for the body of the theme and possibly an additional short introduction and a short conclusion. If introducing and concluding the theme take about fifty words each, then the body or main portion of the discussion can use approximately 650 words, or about five paragraphs. With a separate introductory paragraph, the body begins with the second paragraph of the theme. The first sentence of that paragraph serves as the topic sentence of the body (a unit of several paragraphs similar to a paragraph of several sentences) and has its own controlling idea that directly supports the essay idea of the essay sentence expressed in the introduction. The second sentence of the second paragraph then becomes the topic of that paragraph and directly supports the controlling idea of the body.

2. Word your general subject so that it can be properly covered in the predetermined length of your paper. For instance, for a 750-word theme on "the Middle Ages", progressive stages in restricting the subject might be worded: The Middle Ages -England in the Middle Ages - North Central England in the Fourteenth Century -Social Revolt Against the Moneyed Classes ~ Outlaws vs. Constituted Authority -Robin Hood - The Good Old Days of Robin Hood and His Men - Identifying with Robin Hood and His Men. As you gather materials and become more knowledgeable about your subject, you may decide to limit or expand your subject even further. Keep a tight rein on your phrasing; make it say only what you really want to discuss.

3. Compose a working thesis sentence with a definite thesis idea (like the topic sentence with its controlling idea). As you read for your paper, you must have some gauge by which to select what is relevant to your purpose and what, being irrelevant, must be excluded. Such a thesis sentence at this time need not be in its final form, but without it you have very little control over unity in the theme.

Let us assume that you wish to limit your subject to Robin Hood, his men, and the events and people associated with them in North Central England during the fourteenth century. You may have to think long and hard to discover an appropriate thesis idea, or you may come upon one quite simply. For instance, you may recall Fransois Villon's eternal question, "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" You too may wish you could go back to "the good old days" - to the days of Robin Hood. Of course you cannot, but you might experience imaginatively such people, places, and adventures if you had some means of contact to which you personally responded. It might be only a piece of wood from Sherwood Forest, a visit to the grave of Robin Hood or Little John, or a guided tour through Robin Hood country. A little preparation just might make a vicarious experience possible.

At any rate, begin to fashion on paper a working thesis sentence, keeping in mind the restrictions in length and subject matter you have set for yourself.

4. Gather materials for the theme (have consultations with the teachers, read widely in the library, use the Internet and the like).

5. The fifth important step toward writing the theme is to make certain that the body will have a basic unity of parts. Certain items will cluster around a common central or controlling idea. You should find the core idea of each cluster and the related items. Now determine which core idea with its own cluster of topics can absorb many of the items in the other clusters. Of the unassigned topics, some should be reserved for possible use in the introduction or the conclusion to the theme; the rest can be deleted.

6. Arrange all groups of material in a predetermined order of time, space, general-to-specific, specific-to-general, or climax. Just as you designed greater coherence and effectiveness in the total paragraph by determining which of these orders best served the material, so you should apply one of them to the whole theme.

7-8. The seventh and eighth steps in writing a theme - the introduction and the conclusion - usually are not composed until the body has been completed.

The short essay of 500 to 750 words, which we are discussing now, may not need an introduction as something preliminary to the body of the essay. If it does, the introduction precedes the body, is usually expressed in one paragraph of some fifty words or so, and contains the essay sentence with its essay (or controlling) idea. It may have a definition of words whose clarity is essential to the reader's understanding of the content or the writer's point of view. Its tone should also be in keeping with that of the whole essay formal or informal, serious or light, objective or personal. (p.p. 100 ...)

Sentence Unity (Lecture 6)

A paragraph typically consists of a number of sentences, each of which expresses or supports the main idea of the paragraph. We have already touched upon the importance of unity in the paragraphs, which is achieved by eliminating sentences that lead away from the controlling idea. We also have to look at the sentences and at ways of achieving unity within them.

To be unified, a sentence should satisfy two requirements. First,if we exclude fragments written for stylistic effect, a sentence must be grammatically complete, that is, contain a subject and a predicate. Second,and equally important, a unified sentence should have its most important idea in the independent clause, its less important idea in the dependent clause or other modifying construction.

How do you decide which idea is more important and belongs in the independent clause? In any one isolated sentence, the more important idea is the one you wish to emphasize. But in the context of a paragraph the controlling idea governs. This means that when two ideas are expressed in the same sentence, the one that most directly supports the controlling idea is most important and should be emphasized.