Parallelism: Understanding Parallel Structure in Grammar and Writing

Parallel structure (or Parallelism) is a valuable technique for improving your writing. It is a rhetorical device that is used to enhance the rhythm of language and draw comparisons, emphasize, or elaborate on an idea. It involves the use of similar grammatical structures in two or more elements of a sentence or series of sentences. This literary device is widely used in literature, speeches, and other forms of communication to create a pattern of repetition and balance.

Parallel Structure in Grammar

What Is Parallel Structure?

It is a grammatical device that uses a consistent (parallel) structure of two or more clauses, phrases, or words that have similar form and length. Parallel construction is used as a stylistic device that improves readability and fluency in writing. The word patterns assist readers in forming a relationship between the words or phrases. The writing also sounds more polished and flows more smoothly.

Rules of Parallel Structure

The basic rule for parallel construction is that each element in a series must meet two conditions:

1. Each element must appear in the same grammatical form

2. Each element performs the same grammatical function

Examples of Different Types of Parallel Structures

Example: Ashley is a violinist, but Steve is a pianist.

  • Two dependent “that” clauses:

Example: The movie that you loved and that Jenna recommended is now on DVD.

  • Two or more prepositional clauses joined by conjunctions:

Example: Jeff ran over the bridge, through the bushes, and around the group of kids, to get home faster.

  • Two adverbial clauses:

Example: Jake enjoyed his vacation because the weather was good and because the beach was beautiful.

  • Two verbs joined by a conjunction:

Example: Mike drove home, and he ate a snack.

  • Two subjects joined by a conjunction:

Example: Colin and Hannah rank among the best senior athletes.

  • Two objects joined by a conjunction: 

Example: Kate wants to grow irises or sunflowers.

Parallel Structure Examples

Parallel Structure Using “ing” Endings

When there are two or more consecutive verbs in a sentence, using “ing” endings is one method of parallel construction that is very effective:

  • Lily loves skiing, swimming, and diving.
  • Michael is an expert in gourmet cooking, woodworking, and gardening.

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions relate to each other and work together in pairs to join phrases or words of equal importance in a sentence.

Examples:

  • Neither Michelle nor Nicole wanted to attend Jessica’s party.
  • Not only does Brian teach music, but he also teaches biology.
  • Both Kim and Rachel are planning to vacation in California this month.
  • Either Emma or Natalie must feed the cats today.
  • If we lose electricity from the storm, then we will use the emergency generator.
  • Whether Joe arrives on time or not, we need to leave at 7:00 p.m.

Related: Correlative Conjunctions

Parallel Structure with Infinitives

Examples:

  • John likes to read, to paint, and to bike.
  • Megan’s goals were to volunteer at the camp, to compete in the race, and to graduate with honors.
  • Before the big test, I hope to sleep well, to eat a nutritious breakfast, and to go over my notes.
  • My favorite hobbies are to sew, to craft, and to scrapbook.

Parallel Structure with Clauses

Examples:

  • When choosing to hire a new employee, Jack doesn’t care who you know, where you attended college, or what GPA you had.
  • The most important qualities for our new nanny are her punctuality, her relationship with the children, and her commitment to the position.
  • Over the summer, Hailey will visit her cousins, attend an art class, and hike in the Catskills.

Parallel Structure with Colons

Examples:

  • The picnic committee asked for the following donations: desserts, beverages, cups, plates, and utensils.
  • Noah’s courses for the fall are the following: chemistry, art, gym, sociology, and calculus.
  • Katherine set goals for this week: take the cat to the veterinarian, shop for new luggage, and buy a gift for her friend’s birthday.

Related: Colons

Parallel Structure with Other Lists

A parallel list means that each item in the list has the same structure:

Examples:

  • My list of activities this week are going to art class, working out at the gym, shopping for a dress, and visiting my grandmother.
  • This past weekend, I shopped for groceries, attended a concert, and dined with my friends.
  • On vacation, I will visit the art museum, go to the beach, take a sunset cruise, and shop for souvenirs.

Parallel Structure with Verb Tenses

Examples:

  • The teacher lectured on the book’s theme and then assigned us homework.
  • Maya attended her gymnastics class and then completed her homework.
  • Mark practices soccer on Wednesdays, plays soccer on weekends and volunteers as a mentor on Thursdays.
  • Jenna is visiting her sister on Tuesday, meeting with Ashley on Wednesday, and shopping for furniture on Saturday.

What is Parallelism?

Parallelism (or Parallel Structure) is a figure of speech that involves the repetition of grammatical elements in a sentence or series of sentences. It is a technique that helps to create balance, rhythm, and emphasis in writing and speaking. Parallelism can be used to compare or contrast ideas, to emphasize important points, or to create a sense of symmetry in a sentence.

Definition

Parallelism is the repetition of grammatical elements in a sentence or series of sentences. These elements can be words, phrases, clauses, or entire sentences. The repetition creates a pattern that helps to create balance and rhythm in the sentence. Parallelism can also be used to emphasize important ideas or to create a sense of symmetry in the sentence.

Parallelism Examples

Here are some examples of parallelism in sentences:

  • “She likes to swim, to bike, and to run.” In this sentence, the repetition of the infinitive “to” creates a sense of balance and symmetry.
  • “The cat chased the mouse, the dog chased the cat, and the bird watched from above.” In this sentence, the repetition of the verb “chased” creates a sense of rhythm and emphasizes the actions of the animals.
  • “He was not only a great musician but also a great writer.” In this sentence, the repetition of the adjective “great” emphasizes the subject’s talents and creates a sense of balance.

Parallelism can also be used in longer passages of writing. For example, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he uses parallelism to emphasize his ideas and create a sense of rhythm. Here is an example:

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

In this passage, King repeats the phrase “I have a dream” three times, creating a sense of rhythm and emphasizing his vision for the future.

Overall, parallelism is a powerful technique that can be used to create balance, rhythm, and emphasis in writing and speaking. By repeating grammatical elements, writers and speakers can create a sense of symmetry and draw attention to important ideas.

Why is Parallelism Important?

Parallelism is an essential aspect of writing that can help writers create balance, symmetry, and coherence in their texts. It can be used to emphasize relationships between sentences, compare or contrast ideas, and create a stronger sense of rhythm in the text. In this section, we will explore the benefits and challenges of using parallelism in writing.

Benefits

One of the primary benefits of using parallelism is that it can make writing more memorable and easier to understand. By repeating similar grammatical structures, writers can create a rhythmic pattern that makes their writing more engaging and easier to follow. This can be especially useful in persuasive writing, where the goal is to make a strong argument that sticks in the reader’s mind.

Parallelism can also be used to create balance and symmetry in writing. By using similar grammatical structures, writers can create a sense of harmony and order in their texts. This can be especially useful in longer pieces of writing, where it can help to keep the reader engaged and focused.

Challenges

While parallelism can be a powerful tool, it can also be challenging to use effectively. One of the primary challenges is maintaining consistency throughout the text. If the writer fails to use similar grammatical structures consistently, the effect of parallelism can be lost, and the writing can become disjointed and confusing.

Another challenge of using parallelism is avoiding monotony. If the writer repeats the same grammatical structure too often, the writing can become dull and repetitive, and the reader may lose interest. To avoid this, writers must be creative and use a variety of grammatical structures to keep the writing fresh and engaging.

In conclusion, parallelism is an important tool that writers can use to create balance, symmetry, and coherence in their texts. While it can be challenging to use effectively, the benefits of parallelism are clear, and writers who master this technique can create writing that is engaging, memorable, and persuasive.

Conclusion

Parallelism is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance the clarity and impact of writing. By creating balance and symmetry within sentences and paragraphs, writers can help readers understand and remember their message more effectively.

Whether you are writing a persuasive essay, a research paper, or a novel, parallelism can help you achieve your goals. By using parallel structure, you can emphasize important ideas, create rhythm and flow, and make your writing more memorable.

However, it is important to use parallelism judiciously. Overuse can lead to monotony and predictability, while too little can make your writing seem disjointed and confusing. The key is to strike a balance between repetition and variation, and to use parallelism in a way that supports your overall message and style.

In summary, parallelism is a valuable tool for writers of all levels and genres. By mastering this technique, you can create writing that is clear, concise, and impactful.

Parallelism | Infographic

Parallel Structure in Writing | Definition and Examples of Parallel StructurePin

FAQs on Parallelism

Parallelism, also known as parallel structure or parallel construction, is a grammatical and stylistic technique in writing, where words, phrases, or clauses are used in a similar form or structure to emphasize their significance and bring clarity to the sentence. Here are some frequently asked questions about parallelism:

What is the purpose of using parallelism in writing?

The purpose of using parallelism is to create a balance and rhythm in writing. Parallelism helps to make sentences and paragraphs easier to read and understand. It also helps to emphasize the importance of certain ideas and creates a sense of unity in writing.

How can parallelism be used in writing?

Parallelism can be used in various ways in writing. It can be used to create a list of items or actions that are all equal in importance. It can also be used to create a comparison between two or more ideas. Additionally, parallelism can be used to emphasize the importance of a particular point or to create a sense of unity in a paragraph or essay.

What are some examples of parallelism in literature?

Parallelism can be found in many literary works. One example is in the opening lines of Charles Dickens‘ “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Another example is from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

How can one ensure effective use of parallelism in writing?

To ensure effective use of parallelism in writing, it is important to maintain consistency in the structure of the parallel elements. This means using the same verb tense, voice, and grammatical structure for each element in the series. It is also important to avoid overusing parallelism, as it can become repetitive and lose its impact. Finally, it is important to ensure that the parallel elements are relevant to the overall message of the writing and contribute to its clarity and coherence.

Last Updated on May 12, 2023

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1 thought on “Parallelism: Understanding Parallel Structure in Grammar and Writing”

  1. Example: Jeff ran over the bridge, through the bushes, and around the group of kids, to get home faster.
    I believe ” over….., through……,aroun..” are prepositional phrases not clauses.
    An awesome lesson.
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply

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