Hi, I'm Ray Evans. I'm a certified copyeditor and proofreader.
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Parallelism: How to Double Your Fun, Double Your Pleasure, and Double Your Prose! (Self-Edit Tips Pt 7)
So What is Parallelism?
You want your writing to be gripping, entertaining, and, dare I say it, grammatically correct?
Then listen up, because I'm about to explain the ins and outs of parallel construction and why it’s
crucial to the success of your book. But what is parallel construction, you ask?
Simply put, it's the art of constructing sentences with similar grammatical structures.
Think of it as building a symmetrical sentence, like a game of jenga but with words.
Each piece needs to fit snugly into place, creating a sense of balance and harmony.
You don't want your sentences to be all over the place like a game of drunken Twister, do you?
I didn't think so.
Faulty Parallelism: How does it affect your writing?
But here's the rub: faulty parallelism is like a rogue Jenga piece, throwing off the entire tower.
It occurs when the grammatical structure of a sentence is inconsistent, making it sound
2) awkward, and
3) downright confusing.
And let me tell you, dear friends, nothing turns off readers faster than a poorly constructed sentence.
It's like trying to eat a gourmet meal with a fork made of Play-Doh.
The rule is pretty simple:
Parallel ideas must be presented in parallel form.
Incorrect: We debated the difference between the weather in Michigan in the winter and how it is in the summer.
Correct: We debated the difference between the weather in Michigan in the winter and the weather in Michigan in the summer.
Example 2: Verbs
Incorrect: "Mikey loves baking, sleeping, and to hike."
Correct: "Mikey loves baking, sleeping, and hiking.
All the listing items are gerunds and we corrected the list by changing “hike” from its infinitive form
to its gerund, -ing, form so that we have consistent parallel construction with the verbs.
Example 3: Adjectives
Incorrect: The students were unprepared, poorly behaved, and disrupted the class.
Correct: The students were underprepared, poorly behaved, and disruptive.
Now the sentence has parallel elements, underprepared, poorly behaved, and disruptive, which are all adjectives.
Putting it all together...
The Chicago Manual of Style also covers parallelism in section 5.212(linked for reference).
You should avoid faulty parallelism because can make your writing sound unprofessional and
amateurish, leading to poor reviews and a bad reader experience.
Nobody wants to buy a book that reads like it was written by a first-grader who's had too much sugar.
And if your writing is confusing, readers are more likely to put down your book and never pick it up
again. That's the last thing you want if you're trying to make a name for yourself in the competitive
world of fiction writing. But fear not!
With a little attention to detail and a healthy dose of parallel construction, you can create sentences
that are as satisfying as a perfectly cooked steak. So take the time to review your work and make sure
your sentences are symmetrical, consistent, and balanced.
Your readers will thank you for it, and your bank account just might too. Until next time!!