Mastering Parallel Structure in Sentences: Achieving Clarity and Balance

Parallel structure refers to using the same grammatical form within a sentence to express multiple ideas or information. It emphasizes the equal importance of the ideas presented. In a parallel structure, the grammatical form of the first piece of information is followed when expressing the remaining ideas. Multiple pieces of information in a parallel structure are usually connected by coordinating conjunctions. Parallel structure can be used at the word, phrase, or clause level in different sentences.

Examples:

  • Not Parallel: Ryan likes swimming (noun), hiking (noun), and to ride a motorcycle (phrase).
  • Parallel: Ryan likes swimming (noun), hiking (noun), and riding a motorcycle (noun).
  • Not Parallel: Students were asked to do their assignments quickly (adverb), accurately (adverb), and in a detailed manner (phrase).
  • Parallel: Students were asked to do their assignments quickly (adverb), accurately (adverb), and thoroughly (adverb).
  • Not Parallel: Mr. Evan is a lawyer (noun), a politician (noun), and he teaches (clause).
  • Parallel: Mr. Evan is a lawyer (noun), a lawyer (noun), and a teacher (noun).
  • Not Parallel: Dad told me that I should study a lot (clause), that I should not eat fast food (clause), and to maintain a strict routine before the exam (phrase).
  • Parallel: Dad told me that I should study a lot (clause), that I should not eat fast food (clause), and that I should maintain a strict routine before the exam (clause).
  • Not Parallel: The soldiers approached the enemy camp slowly (adverb) and silent (adjective).
  • Parallel: The soldiers approached the enemy camp slowly (adverb) and silently (adverb).
  • Not Parallel: Mr. Thomas expected that he would present his ideas at the meeting (active), that there would be time for him to show his slide presentation (active), and that he would be agreed by his partners (passive).
  • Parallel: Mr. Thomas expected that he would present his ideas at the meeting (active), that there would be time for him to show his slide presentation (active), and that his partners would agree with him (active).
  • Not Parallel: I like to run (infinitive), swim (simple form), and surfing (verb+ing).
  • Parallel: I like to run (infinitive), to swim (infinitive), and to surf (infinitive).
  • Not Parallel: Eric joined the office (past), worked hard (past), and is getting a pay raise (present continuous).
  • Parallel: Eric joined the office (past), worked hard (past), and got a pay raise (past).
  • Not Parallel: This book contains poems which are romantic (adjective), soothing (adjective), and can be enjoyed (passive phrase).
  • Parallel: This book contains poems which are romantic (adjective), soothing (adjective), and enjoyable (adjective).
  • Not Parallel: After finishing study one can do many things like: staring a job (verb+noun), starting a business (verb+noun), or the army (noun).
  • Parallel: After finishing study one can do many things like: starting a job (verb+noun), starting a business (verb+noun), or joining the army (verb+noun).

Note: If a sentence indicates that different clauses happened at different times or will happen in the future, the rule of parallel structure may not need to be followed.

By using parallel structure, sentences maintain a smooth rhythm and grammatical balance. When constructing a sentence with multiple pieces of information, ensuring parallel structure prevents disruptions in rhythm and grammatical imbalances.

Grammar Lab
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