Do you want your writing to be understood and remembered? Do you want it to be organized and powerful? What if I told you that one writing technique could help with all of those things?

 

Using parallel structure will improve the clarity, flow, and effectiveness of your writing. For example, in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar William Shakespeare employed parallel structure to add rhythm and aid clarity, making Marc Antony’s monologue lyrical and memorable:

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

In the first line, parallel structure also tells us that each group—friends, Romans, and countrymen—has equal importance. In the second line, the phrases, “to bury Caesar” and “to praise him,” are parallel, making the sentence easy to read with no need for the reader or listener to decipher the meaning. It is clear that the two ideas are equally significant. They are also opposite, and the parallel structure makes the opposition direct and powerful.

 

A favorite example of parallel structure is the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The repetition ties ideas together in the reader or listener’s mind. Each iteration builds on the one before it. King varies the third iteration just a bit and this, too, grabs the attention of readers and listeners.

 

 

Adapted from http://udleditions.cast.org/craft_ld_parallel.html