Parallel Structure

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We are going to take a different tact today and cover a topic related to writing style: parallel structure.

Parallel structure means that your sentence uses words or phrases that have the same form. This technique will help your writing sound more mature and polished.  .

Usually, parallelism is employed when writing a list or series. Here are some examples of sentences that are parallel:

I went to church, the movies, and the local diner.

He texted his friend, walked the dog, and picked his nose.

My father is smart and well-liked. 

My wife is smart, classy, and a little smart assey. 

Okay, that last one wasn’t a word, but my point still stands. All three of these sentences are in a parallel form. They read smoothly. The first example is a parallel prepositional phrase. I am going to places. Second one, he is doing things. Third, I am describing my father, and in the fourth, my wife.

Note: don’t capitalize father, mother, bro or sis when they follow possessive pronouns like my, our, your, his, her.

Some examples of sentences that do not have parallel structure:

I went to church, the movies, and my girlfriend texted me.

He texted his friend, walked the dog, and has fleas.

My Father is smart and a first generation American.

My wife is smart, classy, and thinks I’m an ass. 

These sentences are not parallel. The phrases don’t match. Here is how you would fix them:

I went to church and the movies. Later, my girlfriend texted me.

He texted his friend and walked the dog–the dog has fleas.

My Father is a first generation American. He is a smart man.

My wife is smart and classy. She thinks I am an ass. 

As you can see, the easiest way to fix a sentence that lacks parallelism is to break it into separate sentences. The point is to make it consistent.

I will use the first sentence as an example for how a preposition can confuse you.

Preposition: At, about, with, by, to, from, under, in, along, go. 

In this example, the preposition carries through the whole series, so the way this is written is correct:

I went to church, the movies, and the local diner.

These two examples are wrong because they inconsistently use the to. Again, you must keep it consistent. It’s okay to only use the to in the beginning because it will carry over. You don’t want to insert it again.

I went to church, the movies, and to the local dinner.

or

I went to church, to the movies, and the local dinner.

This would be correct:

I went to church, to the movies, and to the local dinner.

You can mix up prepositions, just be sure that they are parallel.

I like to swim and go fish.

It would be incorrect if you wrote,

I like to swim and go fishing.

This is also a correct example of different prepositions that are parallel:

I looked under the sofa and in the drawers for my phone.

 Here is another confusing example that is incorrect:

I like science, graphic arts, and to study geography. 

This is the fix:

I like science, graphic arts, and geography.

or

I like to study science, graphic arts, and geography.

Another incorrect example:

I love science, graphic arts, geography, and you.

This is wrong because  you is a pronoun, whereas the rest of the series are school subjects. Here is the fix:

I love science, graphic arts, and geography. And I love you.

Any questions, you know what to do.

 

 

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