Unparallel construction uses words, phrases, and sometimes clauses that are inconsistent in form. This inconsistency can result in jarring, confusing, choppy writing. Here are some examples and corrections of unparallel writing.
- Verb forms. The verb forms in a series should be consistent.
Unparallel: We emailed, faxed, and had texted our customers to alert them of the change.
(Verb forms shift from past to past-perfect tense.)
Parallel: We emailed, faxed, and texted our customers to alert them of the change.
(All verbs are past tense.)
Famous example: “I came; I saw; I conquered.” —Julius Caesar
- Phrases. The types of phrases used in a series ought to be consistent.
Unparallel: After networking all day, talking to many customers, and then to seal several big deals, the team was tired.
(Verbals shift from gerunds to an infinitive.)
Parallel: After networking all day, talking to many customers, and then sealing several big deals, the team was tired.
(All verbal phrases use gerunds.)
Famous example: “[G]overnment of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” —Abraham Lincoln
- Clauses. When two or more clauses are used to make an overall point, parallel construction can add emphasis and clarity to the message.
Unparallel: The board met every day for two weeks, they would pore over the financial reports, and the members had to make some hard decisions.
(The clauses use different subjects and verb forms.)
Parallel: The board met every day for two weeks, they pored over the financial reports, and they made some hard decisions.
(Using parallel subjects and verb forms unifies the three clauses into a strong point.)
Famous example: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” —Benjamin Franklin
Keeping elements parallel gives them equal weight, creating balance and rhythm in your writing, which sends a clear message to your reader.