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Parallelism

What is parallelism?

Parallelism is a technique of ‘balancing’ sentences (meaning all parts are similar) by repeating a form or words.

How to make parallelism

Parallelism simply involves repeating structures, patterns or words. It can be simple, such as:

  1. adjective, adjective, adjective
  2. noun, noun, noun
  3. verb, verb, verb

Alternatively, it can be a little more difficult. For example:

  1. time phrase + action, time phrase + action, time phrase + action
  2. phrase, altered phrase

Using parallelism

Parallelism is used to make writing easier to read, and ideas clearer. Used well it can also make lines people remember.

It is important to remember that not every sentence has to be amazing examples of parallelism (if every sentence has repeating structures, it stops looking special and starts looking silly).

Simple repeating structures can be used frequently, but complicated ones are best saved for effect

Examples

ParallelismRepeating structure
In summer the farm grew corn, maize, wheat and barley.noun, noun, noun, noun
He looked at his watch, his shoes, his reflection in the mirror. It was time to go.his + noun, his + noun, his + noun.
Whether diving, swimming, running, or fighting, he loves sports.gerund, gerund, gerund, gerund
She has a large, red house by the lake, a quick, sexy car in the driveway, and a handsome elegant man on her arm.adj + adj + noun + prep + noun, adj + adj + noun + prep + noun, adj + adj + noun + prep + noun
When you are right, you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.

– Martin Luther King Jnr.
when you are … you cannot be too…, when you are … you cannot be too…
Today’s students can put dope in their veins or hope in their brains. If they can conceive it, and believe it, they can achieve it. They must know it is not their aptitude but their attitude that will determine their altitude.

– Jesse Jackson
1. in their …, in their…
2. they can + verb it, they can + verb it
3. their + noun, their noun, their noun
* The parallelism is heightened by the frequent use of rhyme
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