Academic writing often involves comparing and contrasting arguments or opinions. There are many words you can use for this, each with their own specific meanings.
However, to ensure your written work is clear and compelling, it’s important to pick the right word for the occasion. In this post, we introduce three comparison words you might want to use: “although,” “whereas” and “despite.”
The term “although” is often a synonym for “but,” used when qualifying a statement or setting up a contrast or comparison. An example of a comparison might be:
This shirt is a good color, although that one is a better fit.
And, in terms of introducing qualifying information, we could say:
I own a car, although it is being repaired at the moment.
Here, “although” is used to qualify my car ownership with its current unavailability.
Since “although” is a subordinating conjunction, the independent clause (“I own a car”) and dependent clause (“it’s being repaired”) are separated with a comma.
This also applies if “although” appears at the beginning of a sentence, where it’s equivalent of saying “in spite of the fact that”:
Although I own a car, it is being repaired at the moment.
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Whereas (By Contrast)
Another subordinating conjunction, “whereas” means “in contrast to” or “while at the same time.” It’s used for comparing two ideas, opinions or facts:
I’m a big Black Sabbath fan, whereas Harry is more into Justin Bieber.
In the above, “whereas” is used to highlight differing musical tastes. It can also be used at the start of a sentence to foreground the contrast:
Whereas fossil fuels produce a lot of air pollution, solar energy is comparatively clean.
The preposition “despite” means “regardless of” or “without being prevented by” and sets something up as unexpected or defying convention:
Sheila ate her lunch outdoors despite the heavy rain.
The term “despite” here implies Sheila’s decision to eat outside in the rain is surprising. Another alternative to “despite” is the phrase “in spite of”:
In spite of problems during testing, we believe our results are conclusive.
“Despite” is generally preferred in academic writing due to being more succinct, though “in spite of” can be used to avoid repetition.