Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English
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Parallel Structure

Parallel structure is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make a good impression on your readers, especially experienced readers and writers, because the use of parallel structure is always obvious.  As a reader I always look for parallel structure at the end of the first paragraph in five-paragraph essay.  Consider a topic such as "air pollution in Denver, Colorado, USA."  If you want to write about the "causes of air pollution" (the controlling statement), your sentence at the end of the introduction could be "...so the objective of this paper is discuss the three main causes of air pollution in Denver which are (1) exhaust from automobiles, (2) soot from industry smokestacks, and (3) smoke from wood burning fireplaces."  (Exhaust, soot, and smoke are all nouns which is parallel structure, but in this case, parallel structure is even more effective because the nouns are all followed by prepositional phrases.

While the following examples require just one word and are relatively easy, look for parallel structure when you read because it is used frequently among experienced writers.

1.  The children are energetic and noisy.  = adjective + adjective
2.  She bought a skirt and a blouse. = noun + noun
3.  He walked slowly and confidently to the witness stand.  = adverb + adverb
4.  Swimming and hiking are my favorite summer activities.  = gerund + gerund

Exercise:  Complete the following sentences using parallel structure.

1.  Having no job or _____, the student had to drop out of school.

2.  Because I used a computer to do my research paper, I could easily correct spelling errors, move paragraphs around to achieve better organization, and _____.

3.  While I was in college, I worked as a waitress, as a typist, and _____.

4.  He is a man known for his integrity and _____.

5.  Because he was ill and _____, the auto worker left his job.

6.  The professor walked through the door, looked at the students, and _____.

7.  A farmer spends his life tilling the soil, sowing the seeds, and _____.

8.  I was surprised to discover that in person the rock star was warm, friendly, unassuming and _____.

Look for some online quizzes about some more difficult parallel structure questions soon.

MORE:  To see a brilliant authentic example of parallel structure, click HERE.

MORE:  To see my own examples of parallel structure, click HERE.

Finally, for those with a high-speed internet connection, please take a look at a video of extreme surfer, Laird Hamilton, considered the best big wave surfer in history.  The video itself is incredible as is the dialog that accompanies. it.  Listening carefully, the dialog contains many examples of parallel structure as follows:

1.  ...I'm arriving at this level because I'm being driven by these guys to this level...
2.  ...so treacherous and so outrageous...
3.  ...so powerful and cylindrical...
4.  ...extremely shallow, razor sharp...
5.  ...mass, power, and ferocity...
6.  ...neither Laird nor Derek Dorn...
7.  ...you've seen Pipeline, you've seen Off the Wall, you've seen Waimea, you've seen everything...
8.  ...Where and what is that?...
9.  ...what I've been able to have, experience, do....

An attentive listener will probably hear many more instances of sophisticated parallel structure.  The KEY for beginning writers is to begin where you are at and make a conscientious effort to begin immediately.

Click HERE or the photo below to see the video (will open in new window).


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