Parallel Structure in Writing: an Ultimate Guide

Errors in parallelism are grave because they hamper communication and…

Errors in parallelism are grave because they hamper communication and leave readers bewildered. When writers, lecturers, and knowledge workers fail to employ parallel structure, chaos and confusion ensue. Atrophy occurs.

As readers scroll through phrases, their implicit grasp of English syntax and mechanics allows them to anticipate what should come next. When a writer begins to list a series, the reader expects the list to continue.

When different sentence forms come in without concluding the series, readers become confused, and miscommunication occurs.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What Is Parallel Structure?

Parallelism, also known as Parallel Structure or Parallel Construction, means sentence structure in English. The usage of similar structures in related words, sentences, or phrases is parallelism. It imparts a sense of rhythm and equilibrium to a statement.

As readers, we intuitively correct incorrect parallelism, or the absence of parallel structure, because an imbalanced phrase sounds unnatural and poorly written.

What Is the Importance of Parallel Structure?

Parallel structure is essential because it is a fundamental building block of the English sentence, whether spoken or written.

Parallelism is an effective device for authors, lecturers, and information workers. The use of parallelism can create rhythm and focus. Here are some of the importance of parallel structure:

Parallelism can assist writers in achieving brevity and simplicity. For instance, using participle phrases can help organize a variety of distinct elements around a single topic, allowing the author to avoid subject repetition. 

For Example: 

(Correct): “I enjoy cooking, napping, and fish hunting.”

(Wrong): “I like to cook, sleeping, and to go to fish hunting.”

Parallelism improves reading comprehension by allowing readers to group information — sentence pieces (e.g., words, phrases, sentences) — as equivalent and related. It also enables authors to incorporate symmetry, effectiveness, and balance into their writing.

A lack of parallel structure can cause a sentence to be grammatically imbalanced by disrupting its rhythm. The alignment of related ideas facilitates readability and clarity.

How to Rewrite the Sentences That Lack Parallel Structure

A sentence employs parallelism when two or more elements are grammatically similar or same in structure, sound, meaning, or meter. Here are some ways to rewrite the sentences that lack parallel structure in English Language.

Coordinating Conjunction Sentences

When you use a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so) to link two clauses, ensure that the grammar on both sides of the conjunction is the same. 

Wrong parallelism: When I mow the lawn, I like to listen to podcasts and talking to friends on the phone.

Right parallelism: When I mow the lawn, I like listening to podcasts and talking to friends on the phone.

In the first sentence, the verbs “to listen” and “talking” are used differently. In the second sentence, both sides of the conjunction “and” have the same grammatical structure, making it a parallel sentence.

Use the Same Method to Link Together Items or Lists in a Series.

Wrong parallelism: This employee needs to decide whether the company should reduce its staff strength, cut production, or lowering workers’ renumeration.

Right parallelism: This employee needs to decide whether the company should reduce its staff strength, cut production, or lower workers’ remuneration.

The first sentence has two words that use the same verb form (reduce and cut) and one word that uses a different form (lowering). All three parts of the second sentence use the same verb form, creating a parallel structure.

Than Vs. As Sentences

When you compare something to something else, the two things you are comparing should have the same structure. When you compare two things without parallel structure, it can be hard to tell what you are comparing. 

The words than or as are often used when making comparisons, and the phrases on each side of should have a similar structure. 

Check out these examples:

Wrong parallelism: Playing in the mud is much tougher than on grass.

Right parallelism: Playing in the mud is much tougher than playing on grass.

In the first sentence, the parts that come before the comparison word (than) are not the same as those that come after it. It looks like the writer is comparing a verb (playing) to a noun (a place) (grass). 

The writer uses the same grammatical structure in the second sentence to create a parallel structure. This makes it clear that a thing is being compared to something else.

Some problems with parallelism can be fixed by adding or removing words from a sentence.

Wrong parallelism: A slow jog is as beneficial to your health as going for a marathon race.

Right parallelism: Going for a slow jog is as beneficial to your health as running a marathon.

In this case, the verb phrase “going for” needs to be added to the sentence to clarify that jogging is being compared to racing.

Correlating Conjunction Sentences

A correlative conjunction is a pair of conjunctions that show the relationship between two equal parts of a sentence. Some common correlative conjunctions are rather…than, neither…nor, either…or etc.

To make a parallel sentence, correlative conjunctions should follow the same grammar rules. Look at the following example:

Wrong parallelism: We can neither wait for Peter to come home nor can we take preventive measures.

Correct parallelism: We can neither wait for Peter to come home nor take preventive measures.

When you use correlative conjunction, the words, phrases, or clauses after each part of the sentence should be the same. 

In the first sentence, the second part of the sentence doesn’t match the way the first part is put together. 

In the second sentence, a parallel structure is made by leaving out words that aren’t needed and using the same verb constructions. Parallelism can sometimes be fixed by rearranging a sentence.

To Wrap Up

The absence of a parallel structure is, most times, unacceptable. This is because a parallelism error would disrupt the rhythm of a sentence, leaving the reader bewildered but unsure of why. 

These types of errors may not always impede comprehension. But, they could influence your writing style, placing an undue weight on the reader as they attempt to decipher your objective. 

Use parallel organization in your writing unless you are attempting to make a specific point and want to throw the reader off.

Frequently asked questions

What are some examples of parallel structure?

Not parallelParallel
I like to jog, bake, paint, and watching movies.I like to jog, bake, paint, and watch movies. I like jogging, baking, painting, and watching movies.

Why parallel structure is such an important writing technique?

An overall parallel structure ensures uniformity and consistency throughout a piece of writing, which ensures its clarity and accuracy. As a result, each compared item or idea within a phrase or clause follows the same grammatical pattern.

How do you rewrite a sentence using parallel structure?

The concept of parallel structure is meant to illustrate that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. There is a possibility to do this at the word, phrase, or clause level. Parallel structures are usually joined through coordinating conjunctions such as “and” or “or.”.

How do you check parallelism in writing?

Tip. You can easily check for parallelism in your writing by pairing nouns with noun verbs, prepositional phrases with prepositionally paired phrases, and so on. Make sure the elements in a sentence use the same grammatical form.

What are the three rules to consider when using parallel structures in your writing?

Use – Parallel Structure. 1) Economy 2) Clarity 3) Equalities 4) Sensibility.

Which sentence is written correctly with parallel structure?

The only sentence whose parallel structure is correct is the following: Sheila Peterson can walk 20 miles, swim three miles, and bike 30 miles without breaking a sweat. Each of the three main verbs is in the same tense, and with the same grammar.

What is parallel structure in writing?

Parallelism (also called parallelism) refers to the repetition of a chosen grammatical form within a sentence. Creating parallel constructions by making each compared item or idea follow the same grammatical pattern allows you to create a parallel construction.

How do you know if a sentence is parallel?

Are you able to determine if a sentence is parallel based on the elements on both sides of coordinating and correlative conjunctions?

What do you think are the benefit of using parallelism in your sentences?

It is important to keep parallelism in sentence construction in order to create economy, rhythm, emphasis and clarity in your writing.

What is a parallel structure sentence?

Sentences with Parallel Structure. When the writer balances similar grammatical elements such as words, phrases, and clauses to demonstrate equal importance, she can create parallel structure in a sentence.

What are the 5 types of parallelism?

Different types of parallelism exist: lexical, syntactic, semantic, synthetic, binary, or antithetical. It is possible to parallelize on a number of levels: 1. Syntactic level where there are parallel structures between word phrases or sentences, 2.

What is the effect of parallel structure in literature?

Parallel Construction Parallel construction uses similar words, phrases, or clauses to show that ideas have the same level of significance. This structure allows the writer to read content naturally without interruption.

Parallel Structure in Writing: an Ultimate Guide

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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