Parallelism in writing is the use of similar structures in a sentence to create balance or emphasis.
It can be used to make your nonfiction writing more concise, and to add power and clarity to your words.
For example, you can use parallelism to:
- Better emphasize important points
- Present facts more clearly
- Provide structure and coherence
- Provide visual uniformity
- Make it easier to communicate your ideas
Now, it’s important to use parallelism correctly in order to get the most out of it.
When using parallel structures, make sure that all elements in them have the proper grammatical form and are weighted equally.
For example, if you start a sentence with a verb phrase, make sure that any subsequent parallel elements also include verb phrases.
Similarly, if your first item in your structure includes an adjective and a noun, then all parallel items should include adjectives and nouns as well.
Why Is Parallelism Important for Nonfiction Writers?
Parallelism is important because it can make your nonfiction writing feel smoother and more balanced.
When you use parallel construction, you create a sense of rhythm in your sentence structure that makes your reading a lot more enjoyable — and nonfiction readers like symmetry!
It makes your writing more pleasing to their eye, it helps them follow your arguments more easily, and it also helps them internalize your information faster.
In addition, parallelism can be used to highlight key points or ideas, making your writing more powerful and memorable.
5 Common Types of Parallel Structures
While most parallel structures are fairly intuitive (you pretty much know when they work and when they don’t just by looking at them), there’s no harm in adding some structure here.
Below are five of the most common types of parallelism in nonfiction writing with examples:
1. Verb Parallelism
Verb parallelism is a great structure to use when you’re trying to emphasize two or more actions of similar weight, for example:
“Over the weekend, Bill cleaned the house, shopped for the party, and watched a movie.”
2. List Parallelism
List parallelism is similar to verb parallelism, except that the emphasis falls on two or more nouns of similar weight, for example:
“Rhonda ordered potato skins, sausage rolls, and chicken tenders for her friends.”
3. Comparative Parallelism
Comparative parallelism is the use of parallel structures to highlight multiple differences between two subjects. For example:
“My cat is not as fast, agile or clever as yours.”
4. Causal Parallelism
Causal parallelism is the use of parallel structures to emphasize the cause-and-effect relationship between two or more things. For example:
“Smoking causes emphysema.”
5. Additive Parallelism
Additive parallelism can be used to highlight the cumulative effects of an action. For example:
“Resistance training strengthens your muscles, bones, and joints.”
More Examples of Parallelism
Here are some other examples of parallel structures for your reference:
- He was talking loudly, singing joyfully, and dancing energetically
- Let’s find a new approach quickly, efficiently and effectively
- Tonight, we’re going to eat pizza, drink soda, and watch TV
- I was looking for a job that was interesting, challenging, and rewarding
- I would like to travel to France, Spain, and Italy this year
- She wants a cat that’s playful, cuddly, and soft
- He’s looking for a new car that’s fast, reliable, and affordable
- They need to buy a house that’s big enough for their family and has plenty of space for storage
Now, Beware of Faulty Parallelism
Faulty parallelism is a type of error in which a writer uses too many or too few pairs of ideas or terms without proper coordination.
In other words, faulty parallelism happens when the parallel elements in your sentence don’t match up correctly.
Here are some examples:
- She likes swimming, biking, and to run marathons
- Get to the solution as efficiently and as quick as you can
- My toddler enjoys eating cereal, drinking milk, and then watch cartoons on Saturday mornings
Remember, always look out for missing symmetry in your parallel structures.
Parallelism is an important tool in the nonfiction writer’s arsenal that should not be overlooked.
It helps create balance and emphasis in your sentences which makes them a lot more effective for reader comprehension and retention.
Additionally, parallelism can make your writing more structured, allowing you to communicate your ideas clearly and concisely.
So, why not give parallel structures a try in your next piece of writing?
Harry Wallett is the Managing Director of Cascadia Author Services. He has a decade of experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing, which has sold over 3 million copies of books in all genres for its authors, and looks after a team of 50+ industry professionals working across the world.
Harry is inspired by the process of book creation and is passionate about the stories and characters behind the prose. He loves working with the writers and has shepherded 1000s of titles to publication over the years. He knows first-hand what it takes to not only create an unputdownable book, but also how to get it into the hands of the right readers for success.
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