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Tutorial for Parallel Structure
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What is it?

Parallelism means that similar ideas in a sentence are expressed in similar grammatical form. It means balancing words with words, phrases with phrases, and clauses with clauses. Use parallelism to make your sentences flow smoothly and your thoughts easy to follow.

In each of the following pairs of sentences, notice which sentence is easier to read:

The horse was large, had a bony frame, and it was friendly.

The horse was large, bony, and friendly.

Maria enjoys swimming and drag races cars.

Maria enjoys swimming and drag racing.

The second sentence in each pair is balanced grammatically. Large, bony, and friendly are all adjectives. Swimming and drag racing are both nouns ending in -ing. This parallelism makes the second sentence in each pair sound better than the first.

How to find errors

  1. Nouns in a series should be parallel.

    A thesis statement that is clear, strong supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion that should be interesting are all elements of a well-written essay.

    (The nouns statement, paragraphs, and conclusion are not parallel in this sentence because the modifiers used to describe them are not grammatically balanced.)

  2. Adjectives in a series should be parallel.

    The concertgoers were rowdy and making a great deal of noise.

    (The noun concertgoers is modified in this sentence with one adjective, rowdy, and one adjective phrase, making a great deal of noise.)

  3. Verbs in a series should be parallel.

    The sports fans jumped and were applauding.

    (The verbs jumped and were applauding are in different tenses.)

  4. Phrases and clauses within a sentence should be parallel.

    The parents who supervised the new playground were pleased about the preschoolers’ playing together and that everyone enjoyed the sandbox.

    (About the preschoolers’ playing together and that everyone enjoyed the sandbox are not parallel; the first is a phrase and the second is a clause.)

  5. Items being compared should be parallel.

    It is usually better to study for an exam over a period of time than cramming the night before.

    (The words better…than show that two items are being compared. The forms to study and cramming are not parallel.)

How to correct errors

  1. If nouns in a series are not parallel, rewrite the sentence so that the nouns in the series are grammatically balanced.

    Aclearthesis statement that is clear, strong supporting paragraphs, and an interestinga conclusion that should be interesting are all elements of a well-written essay.

  2. If adjectives in a series are not parallel, change the sentence as needed so that all the modifiers are the same type.

    The concertgoers were rowdy andnoisy.making a great deal of noise.

  3. If verbs in a series are not parallel, make sure that all of them are in the same tense.

    The sports fans jumped and applauded were applauding.

  4. If phrases and clauses within a sentence are not parallel, rewrite the sentence using grammatically balanced phrases or clauses.

    The parents who supervised the new playground were pleased that about the preschoolers playingplayed together and that everyone enjoyed the sandbox.

  5. If items being compared are not parallel, rewrite the sentence to make them parallel.

    It is usually better to study for an exam over a period of time thanto cramcramming the night before.

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