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Author Topic: Lesson #12 – Harnessing Parallelism for Structural Balance  (Read 6045 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: July 18, 2009, 12:14:44 AM »

The consistent use of parallel structures is the key to more readable, more forceful, and more polished sentences. As we saw in Lesson #11, we need to always use parallel structures when presenting various elements in a list, when comparing elements, when joining elements with a linking verb or a verb or being, and when joining elements with correlative conjunctions.

We will now take up two more techniques for harnessing parallelism to give structural balance and better rhythm to our sentences as well as to give our writing a distinctive sense of style.

Use parallel structure for adjectives and adverbs
Aim for parallel patterns when using adjectives and adverbs in sentences. Seek structural balance for them in much the same way as for noun forms, verb forms, infinitives, and gerunds.

Unparallel construction:
“She danced gracefully, with confidence and as if exerting no effort at all.”

Here, we have a stilted sentence because the modifiers of the verb “danced” have taken different grammatical forms: “gracefully” (adverb), “with confidence” (adjective introduced by a preposition), and “as if exerting no effort at all” (adverbial phrase).

Parallel construction:
“She danced gracefully, confidently, and effortlessly.”

The consistent adverb/adverb/adverb pattern gives the sentence a strong sense of unity and drama.

Unparallel construction:
“The gang attempted an audacious bank robbery that was marked by lightning speed and done in a commando manner.”

The sentence reads badly because the three modifiers of “bank robbery” are grammatically different: “audacious” (adjective), “marked by lightning speed” (participial phrase), and “done in a commando manner” (another participial phrase).

Parallel construction:
“The gang attempted an audacious, lightning-swift, commando-type bank robbery.”

The sentence reads much more forcefully because of its consistent adjective-adjective-adjective pattern for all of the modifiers of “bank robbery.”

Use parallel structure for several elements serving as complements of a sentence
For more cohesive and forceful sentences, always look for a suitable common pattern for their complements. Recall that a complement is an added word or expression that completes the predicate of a sentence. For instance, in the sentence “They included Albert in their soccer lineup,” the phrase “in their soccer lineup” is the complement.

Unparallel construction:
“We basked in the kindness of our gracious hosts, walking leisurely in the benign morning sunshine, and the palm trees would rustle pleasantly when we napped in the lazy afternoons.”

Here, we have a confusing construction because the three elements serving as complements don’t have a common grammatical pattern: “the kindness of our gracious hosts” (noun phrase), “walking leisurely in the benign morning sunshine” (progressive verb form), and “the palm trees would rustle pleasantly when we napped in the lazy afternoons” (clause).

Parallel construction:
“We basked in the kindness of our gracious hosts, in the benign sunshine during our early morning walks, and in the pleasant rustle of the palm trees when we napped in the lazy afternoons.”

The sentence reads much, much better this time because the three complements are now all noun phrases set in parallel—“in the kindness of our gracious hosts,” “in the benign morning sunshine during our early morning walks,” and “in the pleasant rustle of the palm trees when we napped in the lazy afternoons.” Note that all three have been made to work as adverbial phrase modifiers of the verb “basked.”

In actual writing, of course, the need to use parallel structures in sentences won’t always be apparent at first. When developing compositions, however, always look for opportunities for parallel construction, choose the most suitable grammatical pattern for them, then pursue that pattern consistently. Along with good grammar, this is actually the great secret to good writing that many writers have been looking for all along.

Next: Dealing with Quotations and Attributions


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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2010, 01:39:19 PM »

I appreciate it very much that you are willing to spend so much time and effort on making this piece of information available to everyone. In fact, this would help a lot of people that are learning English or intending to improve to get the appropriate information that they wanted. I believe that most of us could make use of this regardless how good one’s English is. It is definitely worth the time to take a good look at it.

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