What is parallel structure in English grammar?
This is the first of two chapters about Parallel Structures. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce and explore the basics of grammatical parallelism
– Discuss the importance of parallel structures in English
– Provide examples and images to guide and engage the reader
Syntax is the grammatical study of sentence structures. Although students often find English grammar to be challenging as there are a wide variety of aspects to consider, one important area of syntax known as parallelism, or parallel structure, can cause particular issues for non-native speakers of English. This short reader on parallel structures is therefore intended to help students with improving their grammatical accuracy. After Chapter 1 has introduced and explored the basic concepts of parallelism, Chapter 2 will then focus specifically on the five pieces of advice that students should follow if they wish to use these structures correctly.
What is grammatical parallelism?
Although parallelism may also be relevant to the headings and subheadings of academic texts, the concept of using the same grammar pattern across multiple sentence elements is most important when that sentence contains multiple words, phrases or clauses within a series. As can be seen in the example below, such listed elements should usually have a similar level of importance and maintain the same grammatical form to be considered parallel in structure:
Generally then, a sentence that contains a parallel structure is one in which a series of words, phrases or clauses display the same grammatical form. If the first noun in a list is plural, for instance, then all following nouns should be plural too, and if the first verb is in the past tense, then the following verbs should refer to the past also. In addition to this grammatical parallelism, it is also worth noting that such structures are often joined by conjunctions such as ‘and’ or ‘but’.
Why are parallel structures important?
While some examples may still be grammatical in form, if the words, phrases or clauses listed within a sentence are not parallel in structure then they may be more challenging to read or understand than those that are – potentially affecting the grade of an assessed piece of work. With this in mind, take a look at the example sentences below and decide which you think are easier to understand:
Paying attention to parallel structure can not only increase the comprehension of your speech or text and avoid ungrammatical sentences, but it can also help to create balance in your writing. As the following two quotations demonstrate, the use of repeating parallel structures can be used to balance a writer or speaker’s arguments and make them more convincing to the audience:
How should I check for parallelism?
Knowing then that a lack of parallelism in your sentences can create issues with comprehension, it’s important particularly in academic contexts that students remember to check their writing for any parallel-structure errors before submitting their work for assessment or publication.
To do this, students should proofread their work very carefully, looking for any instances in which words, phrases, or clauses are listed either within a sentence or between sentences. By first isolating any expressions that are contained within a series, the writer can then edit these expressions carefully for aspects of parallel structure. For more specific detail about how to do this, continue studying with Chapter 2.
Now that you’ve completed this first chapter on parallel structures, consider checking your understanding of these concepts by unlocking our Chapter 1 Worksheet and attempting the activities. Then move on to Chapter 2 where we deal more specifically with the five tips for successfully identifying and forming parallelism.
Chapter 2 explores the topic: Which 5 tips for correct parallel structure are best? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
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