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.