Language is used as a communication medium. It is used to convey ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions etc. For communication to be effective it needs to sound nice to the listener. Eliminating repetition, using rhythmic words or similar sounding words in combination is called parallelism and it makes communication effective and soothes the sentence making it easier for the listener to remember and pay attention.
Rules of parallelism are:
- When using the parallel structure, the things in the list must be the same grammatical form. The items in the list must be all nouns, all infinitives, all prepositional phrases, all gerunds, or all clauses. These are also known as the parallel terms.
Eg: Raghu is honest, reliable and ambitious.
Infinitives are verbs pre-pended by ‘to’.
Eg: ‘To play’, ‘to eat’, ‘to sing’ etc.
Seema likes playing, singing and to eat. [Incorrect: since playing and singing are verbs, the infinitive ‘to eat’ is incorrectly used and should be used in the verb form ‘eating’]
Seema likes playing, singing and eating. [Correct]
Preferably, the parallel structure should be according to the first term in the series.
- An article or a preposition applying to all the members of a series must either be used only before the first term or else be repeated before each term.
Eg: The man will buy the apple, orange and the banana. [Incorrect]
The man will buy the apple, the orange and the banana. [This is correct, but the determiner ‘the’ seems to be redundant]
Hence, an even more appropriate way of saying it would be:
The man will buy the apple, orange and banana.
- Correlative expressions (both – and, Not- but, not only - but also, neither- nor, either – or, a series of first, second, third; and the like) should be followed by the same grammatical construction. The correlative conjunctions must be placed immediately before the parallel terms and the parallel terms must be of the same grammatical form.
Eg: It was both a long event and very tiring. [Incorrect: The event was long and tiring, hence the correlative expressions ‘both- and’ need to come immediately before the parallel terms ‘long-tiring’].
The event was both long and tiring. [Correct]
- When making comparisons, the things you compare should be couched in parallel structures whenever that is possible and appropriate.
Eg: The children in room 1 are naughtier than room 2. [Incorrect: The children in room 1 are being compared to room 2, the characteristics of being naughty needs to be compared].
The children in room 1 are naughtier than the children in room 2. [Correct]
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