Grammar Chaos: The Pitfalls of Parallel Structures

Posted on Feb 08, 2017

Good writers have the following habits: reading often, having their work critiqued, and edits their work before sending.

Something sounds off with the sentence, doesn’t it?

What is Parallelism? Definition, Examples of Parallel Structures in Writing by

Parallel structure, or parallelism, is often overlooked by writers. Parallelism connects two or more ideas, words, or concepts, making the reader understand the logical relationship between them. There are writers who fail to take parallelism into account for their writing to have “variety.” Parallelism is not only a matter of rhythm but a matter of grammar.

When parallelism becomes faulty, it can cause confusion. Take for example a famous saying. What if John F. Kennedy had said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you are doing for your country”? The sentence seems off-kilter and is harder to understand.

There are different ways to demonstrate parallelism. Parallelism can be demonstrated in a series by using similar techniques or by being consistent with the use of articles and prepositions. Parallelism can also be seen when doing lists. Ensuring that your lists are parallel in structure makes them look consistent and related to one another, which should be the case. If you worry that your parallel structure is faulty, try using each item in its own sentence. You can also double-check your parallelism by finding out if you’re using gerunds, infinitives, articles, and prepositional phrases consistently.

Other than clarifying meaning, parallelism can also be used for emphasis. John F. Kennedy’s quote, the correct version, says, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” The quote now seems like a call to action. Another example is the phrase “I have a dream” in Martin Luther King’s speech. His repetitive use of the phrase makes it memorable and implies emphasis.

Using parallel structure can be tricky, but if you use the right techniques, you’ll be able to pull it off with ease. If you’re still unsure, you can seek help from 1-Hour Proofreading. Our editors at 1-Hour Proofreading make sure that parallel structures are clean, correct, and consistent.


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