What Statements: Comparison or Contrast

What Statements: Comparison or Contrast

Comparison/Contrast documents are common assignments in college and in the workplace. You often are tasked with having to compare new ideas, procedures, or equipment with past practices.

The Comparison Language

The phrase comparison and contrast is incorrect:

Comparison:  How 2+ things are similar

Contrast:        How 2+ things are dissimilar

If a teacher assigns a comparison and contrast paper, then write one or the other, not both.  Trying to cover both leads to disorganization. Choose one and complete that.  Comparison papers are far easier.

Comparison/Contrast: A Two-Part Variable

Comparison What Statements have two parts. What Statement:

Workers unemployed for six months or more have a greater chance of quitting smoking than do workers unemployed for less than six months.

Individual or Small Group Activity

For the above What Statement, what is variable 1?  Variable 2?

The above What Statement is N + N.  The information is useful to—

A potential employer

An insurance company

A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the unemployed

Visualizing Comparison/Contrast What Statements

Drawing communication is essential for comparison or contrast documents. For example:

People living in Protestant-majority countries have a greater possibility of dying of heart disease than do people living in Catholic-majority countries.

What will happen if you follow this barbell?

Even with fifty years’ experience as a professional writer, I still draw a barbell for comparison or contrast What Statements. It helps me remember what I am comparing:

Make sure the communications barbell exactly expresses the What Statement:

Comparison/Contrast: The “Bar”

Determining what the verb or verb phrase is in a comparison or contrast document can be tricky. Therefore, put vs. for the bar.


Than is an effective word for setting up set up a comparison. It cannot be used in any other context.

Judy-Lynn is taller than Brenda.

Brenda is 5’9”, whereas Judy-Lynn is 6’1”.

Brenda is 5’9”, and Judy-Lynn is 6’1”.

Brenda is 5’9”, but Judy-Lynn is 6’1”.


Brenda plays center, whereas Judy-Lynn plays guard.

Brenda plays center, and Judy-Lynn plays guard.

Brenda plays center, but Judy-Lynn plays guard.

Individual or Small Group Activity

All of the following What Statements are comparisons. Name the word that sets up the comparison.

Then give the formula: O+O, O+N, N+O, N+N, or (N on the bar).

What Statement

Variable 1

Variable 2

Comparison Word(s)


1. Terrance Hunt’s theory about how the Easter Island statues were moved differs dramatically from that of Jo Anne Van Tilburg.


2. Olive oil is much more effective in reducing heart disease than is vegetable oil.


3. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee” are both about love.


4. Cheetahs could easily outrun locomotives in 1829.


5. Timmy’s house is bigger than my house.


6. The sailfish is the fastest swimmer in the world.


7. The Pacific Ocean is deeper than the Arctic Ocean.


8. My life in Pollock, South Dakota, is not much different than my mother’s was in her village in Cambodia.  


9. Forests have more ticks than do other habitats.


10. Arthropods on grapes benefit more from fungicide reduction than from organic farming.


Individual or Small Group Activity

Complete the exercise:       Puerto Rico

Optional Activity