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Compare and Contrast Workout » Organization

There are two basic patterns for organizing comparison and contrast: the alternating pattern and the block pattern.
•With the alternating pattern, the writer moves back and forth between the two things. The two things are compared and contrasted point by point or characteristic by characteristic.

•With the block pattern, the writer gives all the significant characteristics or points of one thing in a block. Then, in a matching block, the characteristics or points of the second thing are compared and contrasted with the first.

Step 1: Read the following passage. The author's topic is the predicament of black women in South Africa during apartheid, when they were required by the government to live in segregated areas far from the work centers where their husbands were:

At the close of day they light their fires to prepare the evening meal. The fortunate ones milk and shut in the stock, but for most there is no stock to shut in, and their children do not know the milk from the family cow. For some there is a letter of good news from the father and husband far away in the work center—the long awaited letter with money has come—part of the debt at the trader's will be paid off. There will be bread, sugar, tea and a few extras to eat for at least a few weeks. For others it is bad news. The loved one far away is ill, has met with an accident, has been thrown in jail because he failed to produce his papers when demanded by some government official. . . . It is a sad day for this one. Her children look up anxiously in her face. They fear to ask her any questions, and she does not know how much to tell them. "Tata sends his greetings," she manages to say at last, "but says we will have to be patient about the money we asked for; he has had some trouble and has used up all the money." The rest of the evening is spent in silence. And when they kneel down to pray, this lonely woman sends to heaven a prayer with an "Amen." Small wonder most such women are old at the age of thirty, emaciated, tired and worn-out.
— From "The Widows of the Reserves," by Phyllis Ntantala

Has the author used the block pattern or the alternating pattern to compare and contrast?




The following chart shows how to create outlines for both the block and alternating patterns. In each case, A and B are the things being compared and contrasted.

Block PatternAlternating Pattern
I. Discuss A:
1. Discuss first point of comparison and contrast in relation to A.
2. Discuss second point of comparison and contrast in relation to A.
3. Discuss third point of comparison and contrast in relation to A.

II. Discuss B and Compare A to B:
1. Discuss first point of comparison in relation to B, comparing and contrasting to A.
2. Discuss the second point of comparison and contrast in relation to B, comparing and contrasting to A.
3. Discuss the third point of comparison and contrast in relation to B, comparing and contrasting to A.
I. Discuss alternating points of comparison between A and B:

1. Discuss the first point of comparison between A and B.

2. Discuss the second point of comparison between A and B.

3. Discuss the third point of comparison between A and B.

4. Discuss the fourth point of comparison between A and B.

Step 3: Ricardo is comparing Bach's Prelude in C Major with Chopin's C Major Etude. His points of comparison and contrast are rhythm, harmony, and melody.

How could Ricardo organize his paper according to the block pattern?

How could Ricardo organize his paper according to the alternating pattern?

In the box below, write an outline for Ricardo's paper, using either the block pattern or the alternating pattern:




If you would like help organizing a compare-and-contrast assignment that you have been given, our Do Your Own section can help. Otherwise use the link below to move on to the next step of the workout.


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