Once upon a time a professor handed out a writing assignment sheet. As she walked around the room, she reminded us to be consistent with verb tense, accurate with punctuation, and remember using parallel structure.* Wait . . . what?

 

Parallel structure is the repetition of a grammatical pattern within a sentence. Such patterns increase the clarity of your writing, making it easier for readers to follow, understand, and remember. Even if you have not heard of parallel structure, you probably have seen it in use. In the example below, two items in the list have the same form, but one is different. To make the structure parallel, revise the forms to match.

Not parallel:

She likes biking, hiking, and to write short stories.

Parallel:

She likes biking, hiking, and writing short stories.

She likes to bike, hike, and write short stories.

 

When you connect two or more clauses or phrases with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, or, nor, but, yet, so) or with a correlative conjunction (not only…but also, either…or, neither…nor, if…then), use parallel structure.

Not parallel:

We went to see a movie and walking around the lake.

Parallel:

We went to see a movie and walk around the lake.

We saw a movie and walked around the lake.

Not parallel:

His cat likes not only scratching furniture but also to destroy blinds.

Parallel:

His cat likes not only to scratch furniture but also to destroy blinds.

His cat not only likes scratching furniture but also likes destroying blinds.

 

When comparing two ideas, use parallel structure.

Not parallel:

I would rather buy groceries to cook at home than the cafeteria. (Who buys a cafeteria?)

Parallel:

I would rather buy groceries to cook at home than eat in the cafeteria.

 

Not parallel:

I would rather receive financial aid than be working forty hours per week.

Parallel:

I would rather receive financial aid than work forty hours per week.

I would rather be receiving financial aid than working forty hours per week.

 

*Now go back to the top and re-write the second sentence using parallel structure. Write your answer in the comments on our Facebook page.

 

 

Modeled after http://www.evergreen.edu/writingcenter/handouts/grammar/parallel.pdf