Writers Workshop: Writer Resources
Writing Tips: Parallelism
Parallel (grammatically equal) sentence elements regularly appear in lists or in a series, in compound structures, in comparisons using "than" or "as," and in contrasted elements. Words, phrases, clauses, and whole series of sentences within paragraphs can be parallel. For parallel structure, balance nouns with nouns, prepositional phrases with prepositional phrases, main clauses with main clauses, and so on; in one paper, whole paragraphs can parallel other paragraphs.
In much current business and technical writing, you'll see parallel lists of points indented and bulleted, while rhetoricians from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr. used parallel constructions to create emotional suspense in their speeches. Writers depend upon parallelism because it (1) creates an easy information flow, (2) enables the writer to make points concisely, and (3) serves to emphasize points. Don't overuse parallelism, and make sure that you use parallel structures to match the form with the idea.
- Democracy demands responsibility, whereas tyranny demands obedience.
- The 1981 inaugural celebration was well organized, with large public celebrations, elaborate private parties, and intimate gatherings.
- Vito likes novels and short stories, but Jessie prefers newspapers and biographies.
- All her employers found Maria to be intelligent, able, and hard working.
- To have dreams is important, but to live them is even more important.
- Because Ira memorizes, acts, and sings well, he is a musical director's ideal performer.
- After George is discharged from the Navy, he plans to use the GI bill to go to college, to finish in three years, and to then get a job on the East Coast.