Chapter 18

Staying on Track: Parallel Writing


check Ensuring that parts of a sentence are balanced

check Avoiding shifts in tense, person, and voice

check Deciphering rules for paired conjunctions and comparisons

In the world of grammar, parallelism refers to order and balance, the quality a sentence has when it flows smoothly. No parallel sentence starts out in one direction (toward, say, Grandma’s house) only to veer suddenly off the road (perhaps to a tattoo parlor two states away). This chapter provides a road map and some practice drives to keep your sentences on track.

Geometry Meets English: Making Sentences Parallel

When a sentence is parallel, everything performing the same function in the sentence has the same grammatical identity. If you have two subjects, for example, and one is an infinitive (to ski), the other one must be an infinitive also (to fracture). You can’t mix and match; to ski and fracturing shouldn’t show up as paired (or part of tripled or quadrupled or whatever) subjects. Check out these sentences:

  • Nonparallel: Roberta didn’t enjoy paying full price for a lift ticket and that the cashier treated her rudely.
  • Parallel: Roberta didn’t enjoy paying full ...

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