Parallelism

Navigation requires a compass.  With its twin magnetic needles, the compass guides its bearer toward the correct destination.  Likewise, the sentence directs its reader through a grammatical world leading him/her toward the objective. Parallelism allows the sentence to act as an arrow, pointing the reader to the targeted conclusion. If the sentence is not clear, the reader will miss the main ideas and concepts which the writer desires to impart. Similarly, if the arrow is not straight, it will not hit the bulls-eye. 

Parallelism:  the balance of two or more elements in a sentence.  Elements in a sentence are parallel when one construction (or one part of speech) matches another:  a phrase and a phrase, a clause and a clause, a verb and a verb, a noun and a noun, a gerund and a gerund, and so forth.  Parallelism is an effective way to add smoothness and power to your writing.

Parallel constructions with coordinating conjunctions (and, or, nor, but, for, yet).

Not Parallel

  • At Lynchburg College, cheating can result in suspension or even be expelled from school.
  • At Lynchburg College, cheating can result in (noun) or even (verb phrase) from school.

Parallel

  • At Lynchburg College, cheating can result in suspension or even expulsion from school.
  • At Lynchburg College, cheating can result in (noun) or even (noun) from school.

Parallel constructions with correlative conjunctions (either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also, both/and, whether/or)

Not Parallel

  • Ericka is not only very beautiful but also is very intelligent.

The words very beautiful directly follow not only, so very intelligent should follow but also.  Repeating the extra verb creates an unbalanced effect.

Parallel

  • Ericka is not only very beautiful but also very intelligent.

Parallel items in a series (Listing)

Not Parallel

  • The two girls enjoyed dancing, swimming, and going to the mall.
  • The two girls enjoyed (noun), (noun), and (verb phrase).

Parallel

  • The two girls enjoyed dancing, swimming, and shopping.
  • The two girls enjoyed (noun), (noun), and (noun).

Three-Step Method

The three-step method is a strategy designed to allow the student to correct his/her work.

  1. What part of speech is being used?  Is it a noun, a verb, a phrase, etc..?
  2. In what form or tense does the part of speech exist?
  3. How can I convert  the items in the sentence into the same grammatical format?

Exercises

Practice

1.  Make a list of related verbs.

  • Walk, jump, dance.

2.  Put the verbs in the context of a sentence.

  • Dana not only likes to run and jump, but she also likes dancing.

3.  Identify (using the three-step method):

Part of speech? Verbs

Form/Tense? Infinitives (to + verb) and Gerund (verb ending in -ing) (Use only ONE form)

Conversion? Convert the gerund dancing into the infinitive to dance.

  • Dana not only likes to run and jump, but she also likes to dance. (Parallel Infinitives)

Or convert the infinitives to run and to jump into gerunds running and dancing.

  • Dana likes not only running and jumping, but also dancing.

Practice

1.  Make a list of related nouns.

  • Giraffe, rhinoceros, guinea pig.

2.  Put the list into the context of a sentence:

  • Ellen has a giraffe, a rhinoceros, and a guinea pig.
  • Ellen has not only a giraffe, but also a rhinoceros and a guinea pig.

3.  Identify (using the three-step method):

Part of speech? Nouns

Form? Singular Objects (Animals)

Conversion? None Needed (Parallel Nouns). Both sentences are parallel!

Reference: Watkins, Floyd C., and William B. Dillingham. Practical English Handbook.  10th Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Created by Megan Johnston