Parallelism is a similarity of grammatical form for similar elements of meaning within a sentence or among sentences.
If two or more ideas are parallel, they should be expressed in parallel grammatical form. Single words should be balanced with single words, phrases with phrases, clauses with clauses. Parallelism makes form follow meaning.
Balance parallel ideas in a series
Readers expect items in a series to appear in parallel grammatical form. When one or more of the items violates readers’ expectations, a sentence will be needlessly awkward.
Balance parallel ideas presented in pairs
When pairing ideas, underscore their connection by expressing them in similar grammatical form. Paired ideas are usually connected in one of three ways:
Use Parallelism with lists, headings, and outlines
The items in a list or outline are coordinate and should be parallel. Parallelism is essential in the headings that divide a paper into sections and in a formal topic outline.
The information on this page was adapted from A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and The Little, Brown Compact Handbook by Jane E. Aaron.
This information was compiled by Katie Bailey.
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