Edit for Parallel Structure

How Can I Identify Problems with Parallelism, Parallel Structure?

To edit for parallel structure issues, identify lists of words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence, identify all the parts of the list, and check whether all those parts take the same grammatical form.

1. First, identify whether your sentence contains multiple words, phrases, or clauses that list similar information. 

I like going fishing, food, and France.

The sentence contains a list of words and phrases naming things that I like: going fishing, food, and France.

2. Second, check whether all those pieces of the sentence take the same grammatical form. For example, if one is just a noun, they should all be nouns, or if one is an “-ing” verb, they should all be “-ing” verbs. 

I like going fishing, food, and France.

I like going fishing [“-ing” verb phrase], food [noun], and France [noun]. These three items in the list are not in the same grammatical format.

If the pieces of the list are not in the same grammatical format, your sentence does not have parallel structure: you should revise to create parallel structure.

Third, change all the listed pieces of your sentence to take the same grammatical form. There are many ways to do this. Below are two examples.

I like going fishingfood, and France.

1. Make all three items in the list “-ing” verb phrases.

Revised: I like going fishingeating food, and visiting France.

2. Make all three items in the list nouns.

Revised: I like fishingfood, and France.

If you do not know how to change a word from one grammatical form to another, look it up in the dictionary! Right after each word, it will tell you the word form (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and so on). If it doesn’t say the name of the word form, there will be an abbreviation in parenthesis. The most common word forms are (n) = noun, (v) = verb, (adj) = adjective, and (adv) = adverb. Creating different word forms in English can be confusing, so if you’re not sure how to change a verb to a noun, it’s best to look up the word in the dictionary.

How can a sentence be revised to reflect parallel structure?

  1. Find a list within a sentence: Look for words or phrases of equal importance that are separated by commas and joined by a conjunction

Not parallel: Dr. Kall challenged his students to initiate their own learning, be creative problem-solvers, and think independently. (In this sentence, Dr. Kall wants his students to do or be three things, but the items in this list are not parallel in structure.)

2. Evaluate the word forms within the list.

  1. Do the verbs appear as infinitives (to + verb), or gerunds (-ing words)? As present tense or past tense? (Choose the voice and tense of the verb that is consistent with surrounding sentences.)
  2. Do the nouns or pronouns and their modifiers appear in consistent form?

3. Alter the words in the list to create proper parallel structure.

Parallel: Dr. Kall challenged his students to become self-motivated learners, creative problem-solvers, and independent thinkers. (In this sentence, Dr. Kall wants his students to be three things instead of a combination of being and doing. Additionally, the list follows a pattern since the nouns and adjectives all appear in parallel form.)