What is parallel structure?
Parallel structure is established when words within a sentence are united by consistent use of grammatical forms. This stylistic element is also referred to as parallelism or parallel construction.
Why is it important to use parallel structure?
Lack of parallel structure can disrupt the rhythm of a sentence, leaving it grammatically unbalanced. Proper parallel structure helps to establish balance and flow in a well-constructed sentence; the alignment of related ideas supports readability and clarity.
Let’s look at an example:
- Not Parallel: The President traveled to several cities meeting voters, to give speeches, and ask for campaign funds.
- Parallel: The President traveled to several cities meeting voters, giving speeches, and asking for campaign funds.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.)