Los Angeles Valley College

Handouts

PARALLELISM

When two items are parallel, they share similar components. Parallelism in writing concerns the similarity in structure between ideas and grammatical form.  Phrases and clauses that have the same grammatical structure are said to be parallel. If you write single words in a list, you should keep the list as single words.  Verb tenses should also remain the same throughout the sentence. If a writer fails to keep parallel form, the sentence(s) or list will feel awkward to the reader; that is, when parallelism is not achieved, it can create a jarring effect for the reader as well a grammatically incorrect structure.

 

image: 2 skiers parallel to eachother going down

 

Parallel structure is important when writing a series/list, when presenting ideas as pairs, and when writing verb tenses.

 

Parallelism in a series or list

            In a series or list, all of the items should keep the same grammatical form.

 

Correct Parallelism: Wizards tend to have the same personality traits: craftiness,
                                                                                                                                 Noun
resourcefulness, rebelliousness, and determination. 
  Noun                         Noun                              Noun


Faulty Parallelism: Wizards tend to have the same personality traits: craftiness,
                                                                                                                       Noun
resourcefulness,  rebelliousness, and they are determined. 
     Noun                    Noun               Pronoun / To Be Verb / Noun (not parallel)

 

Parallelism with ideas presented as pairs

            When connecting two independent clauses, an independent clause and phrase, and an independent clause and dependent clause, the grammatical structure should remain the same in both pairs.

 

You can parallel ideas that come in pairs in four ways:

  1. Using a coordination conjunction (FANBOYS): For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So
  2. Using correlative conjunctions: either, not only, but also, etc
  3. Using a word introducing a comparison: Than
  4. Using prepositions before and after the FANBOYS

.Parallel ideas connected with a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS):


Correct Parallelism: Tutors are finding ways to improve their workshops and creating
                                                          Verb-ing                                                             Verb-ing            
ways to increase students’ retention of the material.

 

Faulty Parallelism: Tutors are finding ways to improve their workshops and create ways
                                                        Verb-ing                                                                   not ing (not parallel)
to increase students’ retention of the material.

 

.Parallel ideas connected with correlative conjunction:


When connecting two ideas using either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also, both/and, and whether/or, the second part of the pair should have the same grammatical structure.

 

Correct Parallelism: The movie I saw was not only too long but also too violent.
                                                                          
Faulty Parallelism: The movie I saw was not only too long but was also extremely violent.

 

*In this sentence, repeating the to be verb “was” is unnecessary.

           
.Comparisons connected with than:
           
When using than, the items compared should be grammatically parallel.

 

Correct Parallelism: It is easier to lead a simple existence than to question your
                                                       Infinitive form                                Infinitive form
programmed beliefs.

 

Faulty Parallelism: It is easier to lead a simple existence than questioning your
                                                        Infinitive form                                       ing (not parallel)
programmed beliefs.

 

.Using prepositions before and after coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS):

 

Correct Parallelism: Writing center reference books are used for teaching new tutors
                                                                                                            parallel
Advanced grammar rules and for teaching students the basic grammar rules.
                                                 parallel

Faulty Parallelism: Writing center reference books are used to teach new tutors
Prep “to” (not parallel) with “for”
advanced grammar rules and for teaching students the basic grammar rules.

image: crayons in 3 colors parallel illustrating parallelism

Parallelism with verb tenses

Verb tenses in a sentence should remain the same:

 

Correct Parallelism: I walked home from work on Friday, so I picked up food from a
                                             Past                                                            Past
stand near my house.
                                                             
Faulty Parallelism: I walked home from work on Friday, so I pick up food from a stand
                                      Past                                               Present (Not Parallel)
near my house.

 

Correct Parallelism 2: They have been waiting to get tickets to the concert since January,
                                       present perfect progressive (verb)


and they have also been looking for a ride to this concert.
                present perfect progressive (verb)


Faulty Parallelism 2: They have been waiting to get tickets to the concert since January,
                                       present perfect progressive (verb)
and they will be looking for a ride to this concert. 
    future progressive (verb) not parallel

 

illustration graphic for exercise: a pen & paperParallelism Exercise I

        

Read the following sentences for parallel grammatical structure.  Revise the

sentences so that they follow proper parallel structure. 

1) The computer system has multiple functions such as correcting spelling mistakes, 

    checking for grammatical errors, and can check paragraph structure.

2) English professors are developing new methods for teaching literary theory and  

    improve their syllabus for the Fall Semester.

3) The Writing Center tutors are not only trained in different writing techniques but are 

    also trained to teach students MLA Format.

4) It is greater to achieve something difficult than achieving something easy.

5) I rode two buses home yesterday, and I walk the final two blocks home.

 

illustration graphic for exercise: a pen & paperParallelism Exercise II

Read the following paragraph for parallel grammatical structure.  Revise any underlined sections that do not contain proper parallel structure.
Many college courses require students to write essays as part of the class curriculum.  An academic essay for a college course should contain a thesis, body, and to conclude.  It is important for students to perform some type of pre-writing or to cluster before they start typing on the computer.  Pre-writing will usually help students to find and expand new ideas for the paper.   After pre-writing, students should type a rough draft using their previous cluster.  Students are always nervous in writing the rough draft and started the paper.  It is better for students to write to the end of the rough draft than stopping every few sentences to check the grammar.  If students do not expand their rough draft, the essay will not only be short but will be also disorganized.  Revising the essay for a strong thesis, organization, and proper supporting is the most important part of the writing process. This is what separates the strong writers from the weak writers.  The final step in writing a college paper is editing.  This is where students will check the paper for grammatical errors, proper punctuating, and spelling errors.  A strong writing process will allow students to write a proper college essay.

This handout is based on the following texts:

Hacker, Diana. The Bedford Handbook for Writers. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Levin, Gerald. The Macmillan College Handbook. New York: Macmillan Publishing
            Company, 1987.

 

All of the above texts are available in the writing center reference shelf.

 

Rev. 3/28/06

 

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