What is Parallelism? How Should You Use it in Research Writing?
Successful writing is a combination of coherent structure, ideal grammar, and excellent style. Though the rules of structure and grammar are straightforward, writing style embodies concepts such as grace and readability that may appear ambiguous in comparison. We are now going to explore the stylistic technique “parallel form” and effective ways in which it can be used. Sentences that accurately use the parallel form are like skirmishes for the reader’s attention that are won by the writer. The starting of the form sets up the reader’s expectations and the ending of the form fulfills them.
Use parallel form to reduce verbosity. Whenever you find yourself repeating the same phrases often, see if you can use parallel form. Here’s an example from a paper on environmental policy initiatives:
Agronomists sometimes intentionally introduce alien species into an area, but frequently, alien species are introduced unintentionally, mostly via trade and transportation routes.
There are three areas of concern here: The statement starts with an active clause. The terms “alien species” and “introduced” are both repeated. Besides, the reader cannot foresee what will come next.
Agronomists sometimes intentionally introduce alien species into an area, but trade and transportation often do so unintentionally.
In the revised version, both clauses are in the active voice. The use of “do so” eases the reader’s load, and “unintentionally” as the antithesis of “intentionally” – one of the paper’s themes – is stressed upon.
Parallel form energizes a limp or cluttered exposition, as in this statement, which ends with a series of disorderly noun phrases:
These internal developments in Shinshû should be explored within the context of the evolving medieval civilization, which took the course of increasing decentralization, civil war, and, lastly, bankruptcy.
When items in a series are not of the same type, you risk isolating your reader. The revised version that uses only adjectival phrases in its series is more satisfying:
These internal developments in Shinshû should be explored within the context of the evolving medieval civilization, which was increasingly decentralized, war-torn, and, lastly, bankrupt.
Note that in parallel form, it is the second item in the series that makes or breaks the resonance of the rest.
Unify Point of View
Not all pairs are parallels. Here is an example of a “false comparison” statement:
For isolated muons up to 100 GeV, the tracking efficiency is over 99%, compared to the efficiency for charged pi mesons, which is about 80%, depending on the pseudorapidity.
The tracking efficiency for the one element does not rely upon the tracking efficiency for the other. Thus, the sentence above is overambitious in its attempt to evaluate both events at once. Here’s the revised version:
For isolated muons up to 100 GeV, the tracking efficiency is over 99%. For charged pi-mesons, it is about 80%, depending on the pseudorapidity.
Did you recognize how using parallel form both breaks the false comparison and establishes a unified point of view? Do not confuse the presentation of combined ideas with the expression of a unified authorial voice.
If your document is making 2-3 key points, you can use parallelism to summarize them forcefully in a single sentence consisting of multiple dependent clauses connected to a single independent clause. Here’s an example that uses multiple “because” clauses:
Cyanobacteria blooms are undesirable because they are expensive to alleviate, because they create undesirable odors, and because they kill fish.
This construction is too awkward to read. Here’s the revised version:
Cyanobacteria blooms are undesirable because they are expensive to alleviate, create undesirable odors, and kill fish.
Why Use Parallel Structure?
The parallel form can be used when conflicting ideas and emphasizing similarities— while maintaining a consistent viewpoint and reducing word clutter. Parallel forms lend clarity and succinctness to good writing!
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