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Writing

This Guide was created as a joint project of the Academic Resource Center and the William H. Hannon Library.

Directed Learning: Parallel Structure

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. I see Paris, I see France, I see Dr. Mcgoobee’s underpants. In addition to being two of our favorite childhood rhymes, these sayings are also great examples of parallel structure. Parallel structure refers to using the same grammatical form to show that certain ideas, items, places, people, etc. are related.  For example:

                                                                                                   donating

            Barney hates being nice, helping others, and to donate to charity.

Being, helping, and donating are all in the same grammatical form, i.e. they are gerunds which end in –ing.

Parallel structure boils down to one simple rule: Do not mix grammatical forms for items in a list. 

Below are some examples of parallel and nonparallel structures. 

Not Parallel: 

Barney thought that Darth Vader handled problems quickly, precisely, and in an efficient manner. 

Parallel: 

Barney thought that Darth Vader handled problems quickly, precisely, and efficiently.

Not Parallel:

The judge said that Barney was a bad citizen because he rarely paid his taxes, always threw his trash in the river, and never says ‘hello’ to the mailman.

Parallel: 

The judge said that Barney was a bad citizen because he rarely paid his taxes, always threw his trash in the river, and never said ‘hello’ to the mailman.

Not Parallel: 

The warden told Barney that he should find a job, that he should be nice to the cafeteria staff, and to get a lot of exercise while staying at the Sunny Hills Correctional Facility.

Parallel: 

The warden told Barney that he should find a job, be nice to the cafeteria staff, and get a lot of exercise while staying at the Sunny Hills Correctional Facility.

Not Parallel

Barney purchased a wig to disguise himself and making his face look younger.

Parallel

Barney purchased a wig to disguise himself and make his face look younger. 

AFTER COLONS

If you have a list after a colon, all of the elements in the list must be in the same grammatical form.

Not Parallel: 

Barney has deeply regretted the following decisions: cheating on his taxes, littering in the river, filling his mail box with scorpions, and the day he broke into Area 51.

Parallel: 

Barney has deeply regretted the following decisions: cheating on his taxes, littering in the river, filling his mail box with scorpions, and breaking into Area 51.

BULLETED LISTS

Parallel structure also needs to be used when listing items, for example on a PowerPoint, 

During his time as an employee of Evil Incorporated, Barney 

      - Lobbied to have MSG put in every food that tastes good

      - Signed Nickelback to a 50 year record deal

      - Took candy from an estimated 45,000 babies

RESUMES

Parallel structure also applies to lists that appear in resumes. 

Barney Malvo

2008-2009 INTERN, The Daily Annoyance 

Assisted in placing pebbles in people’s shoes.

2010-2011 ASSOCIATE, Fatten Up, America!

Added sugar and lard to low-fat snacks.

2011-2013 COORDINATOR, Evil Incorporated

Organized various dastardly projects. 

Directed Learning Activity: Parallel Structure

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