Which 5 tips for correct parallel structure are best?
This is the second and final lesson about Parallel Structures. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Explore five pieces of advice for recognising and forming accurate parallel structures in English
– Remind the reader of aspects such as word forms, tense, plurality, tense and aspect
– Provide examples and images to guide and engage the reader
In Lesson 1 of this short course on grammatical parallelism, we discussed how the words, phrases and clauses that are included in a series within a sentence should generally have parallel structure to increase reader comprehensibility. What this means is that such expressions should follow the same grammatical pattern as each other in order to avoid grammatical ambiguity or error. In this second and final lesson on the topic we will next focus on the five most useful pieces of advice for correctly identifying and forming such parallel structures.
Tip 1: Find the Parallel Structure
The first step in fixing incorrect parallel structure is to first identify which elements of your writing should contain repeating grammatical patterns. As was explained in Lesson 1, grammatical parallelism is usually found when two or more words, phrases and clauses are listed together in series, as in the examples below:
What these two examples show is that coordinating conjunctions such as ‘and’ in (a) and correlative conjunctions such as ‘not only/but also’ in (b) are important features of forming parallel structure. Such conjunctions can therefore be used to help in identifying parallelism in your own writing. To make this identification easier for you, we’ve included a list of conjunctions that can be saved for future reference:
Specifically in academic contexts and longer pieces of written research, parallelism may also be found in section headings – each of which should follow the same grammatical pattern. Looking at the table below, try to determine why the headings in example (c) are incorrect and how example (d) has perfect parallel structure:
Tip 2: Identify the Starting Word
Once you’ve identified the parallel structures, it’s important to next identify where the first instance of parallelism begins. The reasons for this are that (1) you will need to identify the starting word so that you can later use that word to help analyse the elements that follow, and that (2) you will need to decide where the parallel structure begins exactly – as there is often flexibility here. By looking again at our previous example and offering two alternatives, we can see how the starting words in bold may be slightly altered at the decision of the author:
Hopefully you’ve noticed that our first example is by far the clearest, most concise and least repetitive of these three options. Indeed, clarity, concision and repetition are three aspects that you should always consider when deciding the starting word of a parallel structure in your own writing.
Tip 3: Analyse the Next Element
Once the starting word has been isolated, it’s then important to make sure that the words, phrases or clauses being used in the parallel structure are of the same class or type. As the following examples demonstrate, the first word, phrase or clause in the series is usually the type setter for the following expressions. The following table is therefore included to demonstrate how varied these types may be in English, from a series of single adjectives to entire ‘that’ clauses:
Please note however that when analysing the first word of a series, it’s important to think more often in phrases and clauses than in words. This is because phrases can often contain a wide variety of different word classes within their structure. The three noun phrases provided below, for example, while clearly different in both length and composition, are perfectly grammatical in parallel structure:
Tip 4: Pay Attention to Plurality
However, it’s not enough to simply pay attention to the form or class of a word – such as whether it’s a verb, noun or adjective. If, for example, the starting word of a parallel structure is in fact a noun, then students should also remember to check for any additional grammatical features of that word class, such as whether a noun is singular or plural. For example, if the first noun in a series is plural, then the following nouns in that series may be more grammatical or easier to comprehend if they were plural or uncountable too, as in the examples below:
Tip 5: Remember Verb Forms
Finally, and focussing specifically on verbs, never forget about the many forms that a verb may take. This includes the present and past tense and whether verbs take simple, continuous or perfect aspect. Even grammatical voice such as is found in active and passive constructions must be grammatically identical across the parallel structure if you wish for your writing to be comprehensible and convincing:
Lesson 2 explores the topic: Which 5 tips for correct parallel structure are best? Our Lesson 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
There are currently no PowerPoint activities, additional teacher resources or audio and video recordings created for this topic. Please come back again next semester.
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