• 2-minute read
  • 9th February 2016

Word Choice: Although, Whereas and Despite

In academic writing, we often contrast or compare ideas. There are lots of handy words for doing this, but it’s important to pick the right term for the occasion.

Herein, we look at three words used to compare and contrast things, each with its own specific meaning: two conjunctions (‘although’ and ‘whereas’) and one preposition (‘despite’).

Although (But)

The simplest of these terms is ‘although’, which is a synonym for ‘but’ or ‘though’. A subordinating conjunction, it’s generally used to introduce a qualification or contrast two things:

Cheese is my favourite food, although it does make me gassy.

In this sentence, the speaker is qualifying their love of cheese with the unfortunate effect it has on their digestive system.

When we use ‘although’, the independent clause (‘Cheese is my favourite food’) and dependent clause (‘it does makes me gassy’) are typically separated by a comma. This also applies if ‘although’ is at the beginning of a sentence:

Although cheese is my favourite food, it does make me gassy.

Whereas (In Contrast To)

Also a subordinating conjunction, ‘whereas’ differs from ‘although’ in that it’s used specifically to contrast two facts or ideas:

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Ben loves Vegemite, whereas Henrietta hates it.

As with ‘although’, when using ‘whereas’ we separate the dependent and independent clauses with a comma. This is true even when ‘whereas’ is used to begin a sentence:

Whereas Ben loves Vegemite, Henrietta hates it.

Despite (Regardless Of)

With ‘despite’ we enter preposition territory. Prepositions indicate a relationship between words in a sentence, with ‘despite’ meaning ‘without taking notice of’ or ‘without being prevented by’. As such, we use ‘despite’ when setting up a surprising contrast:

Despite her broken leg, Laura completed the marathon.

Mitch hates The Sound of Music despite being a Judy Garland fan.

Since ‘despite’ is a preposition, it should be followed by either a noun phrase (e.g. ‘her broken leg’) or a ‘-ing’ verb (e.g. ‘being’). This is because it introduces new information rather than connecting two clauses in a sentence like a conjunction, so it can’t simply be used in place of words like ‘but’ and ‘though’.

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