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parallelism with items in a series

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A sentence is parallel when items in a series share the same grammatical structure (when all are nouns or verbs or gerund phrases, for example). Writers use parallelism to help readers see connections between ideas and to emphasize particular points.

Examples of parallel structure

The following sentences all contain a series of items that are parallel.

  • André loves to play golf, tennis and badminton. [3 nouns]
  • Larry drove to the lake, parked and gazed out over the water. [3 verbs]
  • Reading books, playing the piano and going to the theatre are Mie’s favourite activities. [3 gerund phrases]
  • The group travelled by plane, by bus and by car. [3 prepositional phrases]

OR

  • The group travelled by plane, bus and car. [3 nouns, sharing by]
  • Melissa hoped to graduate from college, to find a job and to buy a car. [3 infinitive phrases, with to repeated]

OR

  • Melissa hoped to graduate from college, find a job and buy a car. [3 infinitive phrases, sharing to]

In these sentences, the parallel structure helps to draw attention to the ideas.

Faulty parallelism

A sentence with faulty parallel structure is unbalanced and less effective, as the faulty examples below illustrate.

  • Faulty: Jason made cake, pie and he baked dumplings. [2 nouns + 1 clause]
  • Correct: Jason made cake, pie and dumplings. [3 nouns]
  • Faulty: Marisa has been skiing, jogging and has been lifting weights. [verb phrase, participle, verb phrase]
  • Correct: Marisa has been skiing, jogging and lifting weights. [3 participles, sharing has been]
  • Faulty: The facts were given with accuracy, clarity and with concision. [phrase, noun, phrase]
  • Correct: The facts were given with accuracy, clarity and concision. [3 nouns, sharing with]
  • Correct: The facts were given with accuracy, with clarity and with concision. [3 prepositional phrases]

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