What Is Parallelism in Writing? The Secret to Engaging Content

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Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

Parallelism is the hidden gem in a writer’s toolkit. Master this technique, and you’ll be able to craft compelling, engaging content that leaves your readers wanting more.

Parallelism in creative writing refers to the repetition of grammatical structures, phrases, or patterns within a sentence or paragraph to create rhythm, emphasis, and balance. It’s a stylistic device that adds coherence and elegance to the writing, often enhancing its impact on the reader.

From the classics to the contemporary, parallelism has been working its magic, shaping stories and bringing them to life in ways you might not even realize.

I’m here to break down what is parallelism in writing, with examples and anecdotes that’ll make you go, “Aha!”

Whether you’re a seasoned storyteller looking to up your game or just someone curious about the craft, I’ve got you covered.

Table Of Contents:

What Is Parallelism in Writing?

Parallelism is all about balance and symmetry in your grammatical construction. It’s when you use the same grammatical structure for similar elements in a sentence or paragraph to create a sense of rhythm and make your writing more engaging and persuasive.

For example:

“He likes to hike, to swim, and to bike.”

Here, parallelism is achieved by repeating the structure “to [verb]” for each activity listed. This repetition creates a pleasing rhythm and emphasizes the equality of the actions.

Parallelism can also be used in more complex structures:

“She not only excelled in academics but also in sports.”

Here, parallelism is achieved by using the structure “not only [verb] but also [verb]” to show that the subject excelled in both academics and sports.

A few more examples of parallelism from the greats:

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” – Julius Caesar

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” – Winston Churchill

In creative writing, parallelism can be a powerful tool to enhance the flow of the narrative, create memorable phrases, and convey themes or ideas effectively.

Benefits of Using Parallelism in Your Writing

Parallel structures make your writing more digestible and clear. When you use parallelism, readers quickly understand how ideas connect, following your thoughts with ease.

Here are some more benefits of using parallelism in your writing:

Creates Rhythm and Balance

Parallel constructions create a pleasing rhythm and sense of balance in writing. By using the same grammatical patterns, parallelism can make your prose more musical and satisfying to read, almost like poetry.

Emphasizes Key Ideas

Parallelism is a surefire way to highlight your crucial ideas and make them linger in your reader’s thoughts.

How? By echoing essential words or phrases in a parallel structure that creates a catchy rhythm and reinforces your message.

Improves Persuasiveness

In persuasive writing and speeches, parallelism can be used to drive home arguments and make them stick in your reader’s mind. Parallel grammatical elements sound convincing because of their order and balance, making them rhetorically powerful.

Types of Parallelism

Now that you know what parallelism is and why it’s important, let’s dive into the different types of parallelism you can use in your writing.

Word-Level Parallelism

Word-level parallelism is the most basic form of parallelism. It involves using the same part of speech (such as nouns, verbs, or adjectives) in a series of words or phrases.

For example: “She was smart, kind, and beautiful.”

Phrase-Level Parallelism

Phrase-level parallelism takes things up a notch by using similar phrases in a sentence or paragraph. This type of parallelism is often used to create a sense of balance and symmetry.

For example: “He loved to read, to write, and to explore new ideas.”

Clause-Level Parallelism

Clause-level parallelism involves using similar clauses in a sentence or paragraph. This type of parallelism is often used to create a sense of rhythm and emphasis.

For example: “I will not be silent, I will not be complacent, and I will not back down.”

Sentence-Level Parallelism

Sentence-level parallelism is the most complex form of parallelism. It involves using similar sentence structures in a paragraph or even an entire essay. This type of parallelism can be used to create a sense of unity and coherence in your writing.

For example:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

what is parallelism in writing

How to Create Parallelism in Your Writing

Creating parallelism in your writing is easier than you might think. Here are some tips to get you started:

Identify Elements to Make Parallel

The first step is to identify the elements in your sentence or paragraph that could be made parallel.

Look for items in a series, paired phrases, or related clauses. Make sure these elements are expressing similar or equal ideas.

Use Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “but,” and “or” are your friends when it comes to creating parallelism. Use them to connect parallel words, phrases, or clauses.

For example: “She was intelligent, articulate, and driven.”

Repeat Key Words or Phrases

Want to add some oomph to your writing? Try repeating key words or phrases.

By beginning consecutive clauses or sentences with the same words, you create a rhythmic pattern that stands out.

Abraham Lincoln nailed it with his famous quote “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Use Similar Grammatical Forms

To avoid faulty parallelism, ensure the connected words, phrases, or clauses have the same grammatical form.

If the first item is a noun, the following items should also be nouns. If the first item is a verb, the parallel structure should also contain a verb in the same tense.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Parallelism

While parallelism can make your writing more effective, it’s important to use it correctly.

Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

Mixing Different Grammatical Forms

One of the most common parallelism problems is mixing different parts of speech or verb tenses in a parallel construction.

For example: “I like hiking, swimming, and to fish.”

The first two items are gerunds, while the third is an infinitive, breaking the parallel structure.

Omitting Necessary Words

Sometimes the second part of a parallel structure omits a word that is necessary for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

For example: “The coach told the players that they should get plenty of sleep, they should eat well, and to do some warm-up exercises.”

The third clause should begin with “they should” to maintain parallelism.

Overusing Parallelism

While parallelism is a powerful tool, overusing it can make your writing seem artificial or monotonous.

Use parallelism strategically for emphasis and clarity without overdoing it. Vary your sentence structures to keep your readers engaged.

Examples of Effective Parallelism in Literature and Speeches

Some of the most memorable examples of parallelism come from literature and speeches.

Here are a few famous examples:

“I Have a Dream” Speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

In his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. uses parallelism to powerful effect. He repeats the phrase “I have a dream” in successive sentences, underscoring his vision of a racially equal America. This rhetorical device still resonates with readers and listeners today.

“We Shall Fight on the Beaches” Speech by Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s wartime speech “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” employs parallelism to convey unwavering resolve in the face of Nazi aggression during World War II. He repeats the phrase “We shall fight” while detailing different locations, creating a sense of determination and unity.

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” by Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar’s famous quote “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) is a concise and forceful example of parallelism. The three clauses are perfectly balanced with matching verb tenses, making the statement highly memorable.

Let Your Voice Echo, Your Dreams Flourish, and Your Narratives Resonate

Now that you know the secret to what is parallelism in writing, it’s time to put it into practice. This versatile tool is your key to unlocking clearer, more emphatic, and stylistically engaging writing.

No matter the project – an essay, a speech, or even a single sentence – parallelism can elevate your ideas, making them more impactful and persuasive. Embrace parallel structures in your own writing and witness the difference it makes.

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with gratitude,

Julia

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