Comparison Essays: Block & Point-by-Point Methods

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  • 0:03 Comparing and Contrasting
  • 1:13 Block Method
  • 3:23 Point-By-Point Method
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson, we discuss the two major types of comparison essays: the block method and the point-by-point method. We also review the important concept of the transition paragraph.

Comparing and Contrasting

Do you remember that story from school that we learned about Benjamin Franklin? Whenever he had a problem that he wasn't sure how to resolve, he would draw a vertical line down a sheet of paper. He would then proceed to write the pros or positives to the left of the line, and the cons or negatives to the right of the line. He not only considered how many items were on each side of the line, but also how important each item was to the situation. From there he would draw conclusions, and ultimately make a final decision. His decisions were extremely important and affected many people.

In a similar vein, comparison essays are an effective way of showing both the differences and the similarities between two items. In fact, they're sometimes referred to as compare and contrast essays. The two major methods of writing these essays are the block method and the point-by-point method. The latter is sometimes called the feature-by-feature method.

How do you decide which method to choose? Well, each method has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. In fact, if you think about it, this lesson will be a type of comparison essay in and of itself. Can you figure out which method this lesson employs?

Block Method

The block method is often utilized for shorter assignments, essays, and papers. In this methodology, all the pertinent information about Point A (for example, ballroom dancing) is written about in the first half of the paper. All the pertinent information about Point B (for example, line dancing) is written about in the second half of the paper. The finished product often sounds more like a summary than an essay, as it's not usually as clearly organized as the point-by-point method.

This method works well for papers of one, two, or three pages in length. Beyond that, it is quite difficult for the reader to remember all of the information from Point A when moving on to Point B. Further, it is then difficult for the reader to remember what was read in Point A when finishing with Point B. However, it does concisely present the two sides and the whole picture. It also avoids some of the monotonous undertones prevalent in the other method.

For example, here is how to present an essay comparing and contrasting ballroom dancing and line dancing, using the block method:

First, we have the introduction…

Followed by the first half of essay…

In this first half, we write information pertinent to Point A, in this case, ballroom dancing. So, we might write something like:

Ballroom dancing involves many types of dances including the foxtrot, tango, and waltz. The dances involve two partners. They are often danced to classical music.

After we finished writing about Point A, we would include a transition section…

In the second half of essay, we would address Point B. We might says something like:

Line dancing involves many types of dances, including the hustle, the Macarena, and the stroll. The dances involve many people together at once. They are often danced to country and western music.

When we've finished addressing our Point B topic, we need to add a conclusion...

The transition is the one obvious distinction between the two methods. In the block method, there is a stark contrast between the first half of the essay and the second half of the essay. They speak about two entirely different concepts. Therefore, it's desirable to put a transition in between the two halves to allow for a smoother flow of words and ideas.

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