The EFC Writer – Parallelism

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be). 

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Parallelism

Oh, friends, pretty please make sure your lists are parallel? For me?

I don’t want to see any of this nonsense:

The waiter’s responsibilities include making hot tea and to bring the meals. 

Ugh.

Do you think I should go see Star Wars opening night or that I should wait a week? 

Ew (and also, why would you EVER wait a week?).

The mommy manages to do the laundry, making dinner, and played trains without crying. 

I need to either go to bed or to go to the spa. 

It hurts my poor little OCD soul, people. Let’s get it together and make sure our lists are STRUCTURALLY IDENTICAL, okay? Like this:

The waiter’s responsibilities include making hot tea and bringing the meals.

Do you think I should go see Star Wars opening night or I should wait a week? 

The mommy manages to do the laundry, make dinner, and play trains without crying. 

I need to go either to bed or to a spa.*

Aaaaaahhh.  Much better.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

“Whether the list is shown as a series within the sentence or as a bulleted list, the elements should be structurally identical.” (Robbins, Lara M. , Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips, Alpha 2007, 80). That means everything in your list should be past tense (or present participle, or whatever floats your boat)!

The same goes for numbers, too–don’t use digits in the first bit and words in the second bit; be consistent!

  • She finished 12 of the twenty books she wanted to read. — NO!
  • She finished twelve of the twenty books she wanted to read. — YES!

*This one’s a special case–it’s a correlative conjunction (you know the type: and/or, not only/but also, etc). To keep your parallelism in check, just make sure you’re using the same part of speech directly after each conjunction.

 

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

par·al·lel·ism
noun
\ˈper-ə-ˌle-ˌli-zəm, -lə-ˌli-, ˈpa-rə-\
plural -s
1:  the quality or state of being parallel<a lack of parallelism of the heads of the testing machine — Proving Rings for Calibrating Testing Machines>
2:  resemblance, correspondence, similarity<parallelism of interests><parallelism in nomenclature between the kinship terms of affinity in English, French, and German — Edward Sapir><parallelism between obesity and hypertension — H. M. Marvin>
3a :  similarity of construction of adjacent word groups equivalent, complementary, or antithetic in sense especially for rhetorical effect or rhythmb :  reiteration in similar phrases (as in Hebrew poetry)

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

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