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Teacher Tips and Answers

Revising Comparison-Contrast Essays

Drafting is done! You've bootstrapped yourself from having no idea what to write about to having a complete essay in its initial form. Congratulations! Writers often find prewriting and drafting to be the most challenging steps because they have to start with a blank page. Now you have a full page or more, so the work from here on out should be easier.

Even so, other writers hate revising and editing. They feel like they have an essay and should be done. Also, they don't know how to make major improvements (revisions) let alone specific corrections (editing). If you are one of those writers, don't despair. The activities in this lesson plan and the next will guide you.

Revising for Parallel Structure

Parallel structure means presenting equal ideas using the same grammatical form. If you have a paragraph defining and explaining one topic, you should have a paragraph defining and explaining the other. If you have a sentence presenting one point of comparison for one topic, you should have a sentence presenting the same point of comparison for the other topic. Parallel structure even gets down to the level of using phrases or words.

You can think of parallel structure like a teeter-totter. The idea on one side needs to balance the idea on the other side. The fulcrum (pivot) of the teeter-totter is often the word and, but, or or.

Parallel Words

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X agreed about the cause of racism and injustice.

Nonparallel Words

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and "Message to the Grassroots" agreed about the cause of racism and people weren't receiving justice.

The parallel example pairs a name with a name and a noun with a noun. The grammatical form shows readers that these ideas are equal. The nonparallel example pairs a name with a speech title and a noun with a clause. The shifts in grammatical form leave readers confused.

Parallel Clauses

People with Asperger's syndrome have mild disabilities combined with strong intellectual talents, but people with savant syndrome have profound disabilities combined with "islands of genius."

Nonparallel Clauses

People with Asperger's syndrome have mild disabilities combined with strong intellectual talents, but when a savant has uncanny talents.

The parallel example pairs two independent clauses (complete sentences), each using the same structure ("People with . . . have . . . combined with . . ."). The nonparallel example pairs an independent clause with a dependent clause (incomplete thought), thereby creating confusion. What happens when a savant has uncanny talents?

When you connect three or more ideas with an and or or, each idea must have the same grammatical structure to create a parallel series.

Parallel Series

These "islands of genius" include calendar calculation, musical mimicry, and eidetic memory.

Nonparallel Series

These "islands of genius" include calendar calculation, musical mimicry, and they can draw complex maps from memory.

The parallel series connects three nouns, each with a modifier. The nonparallel series starts with the same pattern but shifts to an independent clause. This series is confusing and grammatically incorrect.

 

Correct nonparallel structure.

Rework each sentence below to make nonparallel elements parallel. Watch for ideas joined by and, but, or or. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

  1. I wish I could have heard Martin Luther King or Malcolm X.the "Message to the Grassroots."
  2. Martin Luther King called all people to live together in peace, justice, and lovewe should live together in love.
  3. Malcolm X called for revolution and bloodshedbloody.
  4. King tried to stand between those who do nothing and those who believe in black nationalism when they are black nationalists.
  5. King dreamed of a day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their charactertheir character content was what they were judged by.
  6. Both Asperger's syndrome and savant syndromesavants are challenging.
  7. Those with Asperger's syndrome often excel in math, science, or historythey are interested in history.
  8. People with Asperger's syndrome have mild social impairment and high IQ pretty smart.
  9. People with savant syndrome have serious impairment but amazing abilitiesamazing.
  10. Not all people on the autism spectrum have savant abilities, and not all people with savant abilities have autismautism with not all people with savant abilities.

Review for parallel structure.

Reread your essay, paying close attention to the grammatical structures you use to present ideas. Make sure equal ideas have the same grammatical structure. Rewrite parts as needed.

Revising to Improve Transitions

Transition words and phrases can also help you sort out comparisons and contrasts. These words signal the kinds of ideas that you are presenting at a given moment.

Comparisons

also

another way

as

as well as

both

each

in the same way

in like manner

just as

like

likewise

much as

one way

similarly

so too

too

Contrasts

although

but

by contrast

conversely

even though

however

not

on the other hand

other

otherwise

rather

still

unlike

whereas

while

yet

Of course, you probably did more than just compare and contrast. The two sample essays also explored causes and effects, indicated chronology (time order), and signaled additional information. You can do so with other transition words and phrases.

Causes and Effects

after

as

as a result

as long as

because of

due to

from that

given that

if . . . then

in case

in order to

owing to

provided that

since

so as to

so that

subsequently

when

whenever

while

Chronology

about

after

as soon as

at

before

during

finally

first

in the end

later

meanwhile

next

second

soon

then

to begin

today

tomorrow

until

yesterday

Additional Information

additionally

again

along with

also

and

another

as well

besides

finally

for example

for instance

in addition

moreover

next

other

indeed

Revise for transitions.

Reread your draft, noting places that lack flow. Decide what kind of information you are presenting (comparisons/contrasts, causes/effects, chronology, or additional information) and experiment with transitions that could improve the flow. If no transition would work, consider moving the detail to a more logical spot or deleting it altogether.

Teaching Tip

In addition to improving flow, transitions help students focus on the types of details they are sharing. Deciding what transition works in a given situation requires the student to analyze why they are sharing a specific piece of information. In this way, transitions teach the metacognitive skill of analyzing purpose in writing.

Revising with a Peer Response

Share your writing.

Have a trusted classmate read your comparison-contrast essay and complete the form. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

Peer Response Sheet

Revising in Action

When you revise, you add, delete, rewrite, and rearrange your writing to make it clearer. Here are some revisions to "Two Roads to Freedom."

  • Paragraph Before Revisions

    Revising
  • Revisions correct nonparallel elements and improve the flow with transitions.

    Revising
  • Paragraph After Revisions

    Revising

Revise with a checklist.

As you revise your comparison-contrast essay, ask yourself the questions on this checklist. When you can answer a question yes, check it off. Continue revising until all questions are checked off. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

  • Does the essay focus on two interesting topics, showing their similarities and differences?
  • Does the essay include a variety of effective details: definitions, examples, explanations, anecdotes, quotations, and so on?
  • Are the details well organized, with transitions that signal the types of details being shared?
  • Does the voice connect to the reader and show real interest in the topics?
  • Are nouns specific, verbs active, and modifiers vivid?
  • Do sentences read smoothly and vary in lengths and beginnings?
  • Does the reader feel enlightened by the analysis of the two topics?

This lesson is a part of the Writing Comparison-Contrast Essays unit.

Click the title to view more information about this unit and a full list of lessons that are included.

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