ESL: Parallelism

From the ESL Student Handbook by Young Min, PhD
 

The word parallelism is derived from “parallel”, and both words share the same meaning: keeping things equal or the same. In writing, parallelism basically means that you use words and phrases that have the same grammatical form to enhance the cohesion of your writing. Whether it is for academic writing or non-academic writing, cohesion—the connection of ideas at the sentence level—is a very important aspect of writing. As you keep the same grammatical structure, you can convey your meaning more clearly and effectively. Since the most common area where students fail at parallelism is with verbs, a simple way to get started checking for parallelism is to look at all the verbs you have used in the paper. Here are some examples that can help you better understand parallelism structure with verbs.
                      

Using “to infinitive” or “gerund” in parallel with each other in one sentence

Parallel structure
Toshi likes reading, singing, and walking.
Toshi likes to read, to sing, and to walk.
Toshi likes to read, sing, and walk.

Not parallel structure
Toshi likes to read, sing a song, and walking.
Toshi likes reading, singing, and to take a walk.
Toshi likes reading, to sing a song, and taking a walk.
 
Making ideas parallel to each other in one sentence when you use conjunctions such as “not only A but also B”, “A as well as B”, “either A or B”, “neither A nor B”, etc.

Parallel structure
Jane not only likes to sing songs but also likes to take walks.
Jane likes not only to sing songs but also to take walks.
Jane likes walking as well as singing.
Jane likes to take walks as well as to sing songs.

Not parallel structure

Jane not only likes to sing songs but also takes walks.
Jane not only likes to sing songs but also taking walks.
Jane likes to sing songs as well as taking walks.
Jane likes to sing songs as well as takes walks.

Connecting ideas in parallel with each other in one sentence when you use “than” or “as”

Parallel structure
I would rather go to a different restaurant than stay waiting in this long line.
He thought that he would rather pay for the ticket than file a legal complaint.

Not parallel structure

I would rather go to a different restaurant than waiting in this long line.
I would rather go to a different restaurant than to wait in this long line.
He thought that he would rather pay for the ticket than filing a legal complaint.

When you list items, keep the same form in parallel with each other.

Parallel structure
Taking a fieldtrip to a museum can give you the benefits of learning the educational concept in a hands-on method, engaging your classmates in a more informal setting, and making a connection between the community and the classroom.

Taking a fieldtrip to a museum can give you many benefits: to learn the educational concept in a hands-on method, to engage your classmates in a more informal setting, and to make a connection between the community and the classroom.

Not parallel structure
Taking a fieldtrip to a museum can give you many benefits: to learn the educational concept in a hands-on method, to engage your classmates in a more informal setting, and you can make a connection between the community and the classroom.

Taking a fieldtrip to a museum can give you many benefits: to learn the educational concept in a hands-on method, engaging your classmates in a more informal setting, while making a connection between the community and the classroom.

Created by Young-Kyung Min, PhD ykmin@uwb.edu

For More Information on this Handbook

 Contact Young Min, PhD
 Lecturer, Education Program
 ykmin@uwb.edu