BigDog's Grammar

Parallel structure

When we talk about parallel structure, or "faulty parallelism" as some call it, we're dealing with a balancing act. The idea isn't too hard, but most people don't think about it.

So what are we balancing? . . . pairs of words or series of words. Look at the following:

a and b
a or b

a, b, and c
a, b, or c

Looks kind of like an algebra equation, doesn't it?

Have no fear! This is a math free zone! Just think of the letters as standing for words or groups of words. Any words or groups of words that you plug in have to be the same kinds of words or word patterns. That's all there is to it! Let's see how the "formula" works:

running and jumping, bothered and bewildered, open or shut, laughing or crying

broken, bedraggled, and bone-tired
an old shoe, a stuffed bear, and a chewed-up blanket

When you write your sentences using parallel structure, your ideas come across more clearly because they're easier to read. Compare the following sentences:

  1. Peggotty's toys were an old shoe, a bear that was stuffed, and she had chewed up an old blanket.
  2. Peggotty's toys were an old shoe, a stuffed bear, and a chewed-up blanket.

See how the second sentence is smoother and more balanced? If you 'll try to balance your own sentences in this way, your writing will be more forceful.

How about a "Self-Test" to see if you really understand. Designed for 3.0 browsers

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