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Writing - Parallel Structure

Part of a series adapted from the book "The Lively Art of Writing" by Lucille Vaughan Payne.
by

Peter Flynn

on 15 May 2012

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Transcript of Writing - Parallel Structure

Parallel Structure Utilizing parallel structure is one of the quickest ways a writer can improve his or her style. Rather than define parallel structure, let's just take a look at it in action. You'll figure it out. 1. He was the kind of man who knew what he wanted, who intended to get it, and who allowed nothing to stand in his way. 2. He wanted to walk out, to get in his car and drive forever, to leave and never come back. 3. They went to London, to Paris, to Rome. 4. He felt that Mary had changed, that she had moved into another world, and that she had left him behind. 5. If we are to survive, if we are to have even the hope of surviving, we must end the nuclear race. 6. To know you are right is one thing; to prove it, quite another. A parallelism does not say the same thing in different words. The repetition is a repetition of structure. You are looking for balance. Experiment. See what you can come up with. Here's a variation on Number 5:
If we are to survive, if we are to have even the hope of surviving, we must end the nuclear race, and we must end it now. Whenever a sentence contains two or more similar elements, these elements must be kept parallel, no matter how small they are. Not: She liked baseball, parties, and going to the mall.
But: She liked baseball, parties, and the mall. Not: He was lazy, good-humored, likeable, and sort of a crook.
But: He was lazy, good-humored, likeable, and slightly crooked. Not: She walked steadily and in a big hurry.
But: She walked steadily and swiftly. Not: She combed her hair, powdered her nose, and her lipstick was checked.
But: She combed her hair, powdered her nose, and checked her lipstick. Not: Either I'm always in debt or in trouble.
But: Either I'm always in debt or I'm always in trouble. Not: She is the kind of woman who will neither change her mind nor her hair style.
But: She is the kind of woman who will change neither her mind nor her hair style. The easiest way to do these ones is to stop after either or neither and check for balance on each side of "or" or "nor." She could be neither.... kind nor cruel.
I'm always either... in debt or in trouble. After he entered college he realized clearly, first, that he should have worked harder in high school; second, that he would have to work hard now to keep up; and third, that he could succeed only by learning self-discipline. If you repeat an article or a preposition once, repeat it every time--or not at all. The simpler parallels will keep you from making simple mistakes. The larger and more complex parallels will allow you to take your writing to a higher level.
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