Monday, December 4, 2017

136 Parellism

Introduction to Parallelism

Many writers, whether novice or expert, may find themselves unwittingly violating the rules of Parallelism or unintentionally adhering to them. The rule itself is quite simple, but it’s impact is distinguishable and its effects somewhat profound in terms of its lasting impression upon readers.

Parallelism focuses mostly on lists and list items, but can be extended to included many other forms of syntax. The key factor in obeying this rule is in consistency.

Preliminary Example of Parallelism

As a simple example, a person would write that a single subject does something and a pluralized subjects do something.

However, that person wouldn’t write that a subject do something unless they were giving an order to the subject.

Likewise, and perhaps much clearer, a person wouldn’t write that multiple subjects does something unless grouping them with a word that symbolizes the collective as a group.

Rule of Parallelism

To make the example clearer, let’s define Parallelism. Parallelism is the matching of parts of a sentence so that they share the same grammatical form. That is to say, Parallelism ensures that words agree in tense, voice, number, and/or general structure.

So when forming a list of three items, if the first item is past tense, then all three should be past tense; and if the first is a gerund, then all three should be gerunds. This goes back to our earlier example, but now let’s form an example that actually follows the rule.

Parallelism In Action

Let’s take this example: John smiled, went shopping, and has had to jump in the past.

If we apply the rule of Parallelism, we would have: John smiled, shopped, and jumped.

Since, I’m this example, jumped is already past tense, the prepositional phrase in the past can be omitted to avoid redundancy.

As another example, try the sentence: Jane went swimming, rode a skateboard, and now walks home.

To make this sentence grammatically correct, we change it to: Jane went swimming, then skateboarding, and is walking home now.

The word now may be considered redundant in the corrected sentence, but since writers typically have to account for their audience’s susceptibility to confusion from ambiguity, I have chosen to include it.


In conclusion, Parallelism helps instill a sense of consistency between words grouped together or related to each other in a sentence.

Parallelism only applies to a single sentence and is not valid across multiple sentences, paragraphs, or sections of text beyond a single sentence.

Maintaining the same grammatical form throughout a list of items or across relating terms in a sentence is essential to the rule on Parallelism.