Grammar: Parallel Construction

Posted December 26, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Similar to the transitional phrase, parallel construction, a.k.a., parallelism, ensures an easy flow for your readers. Anything you can do to make reading an enjoyable experience for them will help keep them coming back for more. So, pay attention to the balance.

Peek in at “Transitional Words and Phrases” and the section on Subject-Verb Agreement” as well.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Parallel Construction, a.k.a., Parallelism
Credit to: Common Grammatical Errors; Capital Community College Foundation
Rule: Presenting ideas in a sentence in a balanced manner. The “wrong” sentences sound as though they’re a first draft!
No Yes What’s Wrong
She liked writing stories and to read novels. She liked writing stories and reading novels.
OR
She likes to write stories and read novels.
Mixes a gerund with an infinitive: writing and to read.
The boys like to hunt and fishing. The boys like to hunt and fish.
OR
The boys like hunting and fishing.
Mixes an infinitive with a gerund: to hunt and fishing.
Marx will certainly live an unhappy life because of his bitterness and because he is paranoid. Marx will certainly live an unhappy life because of his bitterness and paranoia.
OR
Marx will certainly live an unhappy life because he is bitter and paranoid.
Mixes a noun with an adjective and there is not need to repeat the because.
Malthus is not only famous in England but also in America. Malthus is famous not only in England but also in America. The point is that Malthus is famous. Make that the point and then follow up with where.
Last night I read for hours, and then several pages were written by me. Last night I read for hours and then wrote several pages. Don’t repeat the subject I and don’t use passive voice.
The book is interesting, instructive, and it is also important. The book is interesting, instructive, and important. It’s the same sentence with the same topic, the book. Why repeat it?
Discover the Differences Yourself…
YES NO
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method; now it is taught by the laboratory method. Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method, while now the laboratory method is employed.
The French, the Italians, the Spanish, and the Portuguese… The French, the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese…
In spring, summer, or winter

In spring, in summer, or in winter

In spring, summer, or in winter
The ceremony was both long and tedious. It was both a long ceremony and very tedious.
A time not for words, but for action. A time not for words, but action.
You must either grant his request or incur his ill will. Either you must grant his request or incur his ill will.
My objections are, first, that the measure is unjust; second, that it is unconstitutional. My objections are, first, the injustice of the measure; second, that it is unconstitutional.
My income is smaller than my wife’s. My income is smaller than my wife.
Vertical Lists
Mignon Fogarty’s Quick & Dirty Tips has a useful example of parallelism in vertical lists
YES NO
For Aardvark, a vacation involves:

  • Attending lectures
  • Reading books
  • Seeing sights
For Aardvark, a vacation involves:

  • Attending lectures
  • Books
  • Many trips to famous destinations

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