Parallelism refers to using similar words, clauses, phrases, sentence structure, or other grammatical elements to emphasize similar ideas in a sentence. It makes the sentence concise, clear, and easy to read.
Parallel structure is important especially in items in a series, paired items, and items in an outline or list.
Below are examples of sentences that are parallel and sentences that are not.
Not parallel: The business accepts cash, credit cards, and you can even pay with a check.
Parallel: The business accepts cash, credit cards, and checks.
Not parallel: She aspires to finish college, and becoming an accountant would be another goal.
Parallel: She aspires to finish college and become an accountant.
Not parallel: Lily likes eating M&Ms and to binge-watch series on Netflix.
Parallel: Lily likes eating M&Ms and binge-watching series on Netflix.
Parallel: Lily likes to eat M&Ms and to binge-watch series on Netflix.
Parallel structure should be used for items in a series, and be sure that three or more items are separated by commas. A comma should never go after the last item. The series can consist of words, phrases, or clauses.
- Every Tuesday Sheila has chemistry, anatomy, and sociology. (three words)
- Inadequate drainage, heavy rains, and leaky plumbing can all contribute to a weak foundation. (three phrases)
- Some projects students will complete throughout the semester include interviewing an elder, designing an exercise routine, and leading a group activity in the nursing home. (three clauses)
Use parallelism when connecting ideas with a coordinating conjunction (paired items).
- I folded the laundry and loaded the dishwasher.
- The job candidate has little experience but comes highly recommended.
- Parallel structure should be used for items in a bulleted or numbered list.
There are three reasons everyone should exercise:
- To increase strength and endurance
- To maintain or lose weight
- To prevent heart disease
- Types of kidney stones
- Uric acid
A special thanks to Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell’s Writing First, published by Bedford/St. Martin’s in 2015.