Parallelism: The secret to great writing



I'm Rebecca from engVid.

This lesson is for you if you want to learn how to communicate more powerfully in just

a short time.

This lesson is about something called: "Parallelism" or "Parallel Structure".

Now, in case you've never heard of it, or if you've heard of it but you're not sure

what it is, I just want to tell you that it's something really important, especially in

academic circles or in the business world.

All right?

And also socially.

So, whether you're speaking, or whether you're writing, this principle of parallelism will

help you to communicate more effectively.

So, first of all, what is parallelism?

So, it's a speaking or writing technique in which you communicate more powerfully by balancing

different parts of your sentence, and I'm going to show you lots of examples so you

understand exactly.

So, when we create a sentence that has parallel structure, it means that when we have a list

of items in our sentence, all of the forms of speech should be the same.

For example, you have verbs, verbs, verbs; nouns and nouns; adjectives and adjectives;

adverbs and adverbs.

Now, that seems obvious, but in real life when people speak and write, they don't always

do that.

So I'm going to show you: "What are the benefits of using parallelism?" and also exactly how

to use them in a sentence.

So, some of the benefits that you will get when you start creating sentences with parallel

structure are that your sentences will have more weight, they'll be more balanced, they'll

have more rhythm to them, they'll have more style, more clarity (they'll be more clear),

and also you'll be able to emphasize things more.

And as a result of all that, your speaking or your writing will be much more dramatic

and much more powerful.

And you may not realize why, but it's really important that this parallel structure exists.

Now, in addition, it's not just something to make it better, it's not just something

to improve your communication.

In academic circles, if you don't follow these parallel structure rules, it's actually considered

a mistake in writing; it's considered very weak writing, bad writing, poor writing, and

you will get lower grades as a result of that.


So it's really important, especially if you're in the academic world or writing anything

serious or in the business world, to write this way.

Let's look at some simple examples first.


So, this sentence, the first one: "Janet sings and dances."

So here, what do we see?

We see verbs and verbs: "Janet sings and dances."

If somebody didn't write this sentence properly, they might write: "Janet sings and is dancing."

Now, here it didn't match because this was present simple, so this should be a verb in

the present simple; they should both be verbs, they should both be in the same tense, and so on.


Let's look at more examples.

"We enjoy reading and cooking."

Here we have two gerunds: "reading", "cooking".

Next: "I like to watch movies and to travel abroad."


Now, you see how that seems really balanced?


So we have: "to watch movies", so we have an infinitive and a noun, and "to travel abroad".

"To travel", infinitive and a...

Well, it's not a noun, but it's like a noun, it functions like a noun.

Next: "The reasons for my view are political, cultural, and social."

So here we have three adjectives.

Now, up til now we had two, now we have three.

And if you've watched my earlier lesson on: "The Power of Three" or "The Magic of Three",

you will know that this is really special.

This is like parallelism on steroids.

This is like the best kind of writing you can do, and a lot of very famous leaders and

writers write this way, using parallelism in threes to make things much more effective.

So, if you haven't watched that other lesson, I will tell you where you can get it; it's

called: "The Magic of Three" on our website.

So: "The reasons for my view are political, cultural, and social."

Three adjectives.

"The police acted quickly and carefully."


So we have here: "quickly", "carefully", two adverbs.

And last: "We enjoy comedies, dramas, and documentaries."

So you have here three nouns.


So that's what's important: nouns with nouns, adverbs with adverbs, adjectives with adjectives

- you get the idea.


Now, if you get the idea, work with me, stay with me.

We're going to do a quiz and we're going to analyze some of these sentences when the parallelism

falls apart, and you're going to help me put these sentences back together to make them

really strong.


Let's get started.

Okay, now you help me to find the faulty parallelism, the mistakes in parallel structure in these


All right?

Let's go.

Number one: "The lightbulbs are in the cabinet, on the table or the kitchen sink."


Think for a second: Is there a mistake in this sentence?

There is.

First of all, there are mistakes in all of these.


So I'll tell you all of that right now.

Where is the mistake?

"The lightbulbs are in the cabinet, on the table or the kitchen sink."


So I was trying to say it in a way that you feel and hear the rhythm.

So, the rhythm is here: "The lightbulbs are in the cabinet, on the table or", what's missing


A preposition. "in" is a preposition, "on" is a preposition, but here we're missing a

preposition, and that created a mistake in this sentence.

So we could say: "...or under the kitchen sink".

" the cabinet, on the table, under the kitchen sink".

Now this sentence is parallel.


All right, number two: "She wants to speak to the manager, return the cellphone and to

get a refund."

Did you catch the error?

"She wants to speak to the manager, return the cellphone and to get a refund."

Now, there are actually two ways that you could fix this sentence.

So one is here: "She wants to..."

She wants to do what?

"...speak to the manager, return the cellphone", and in one way to correct it is to get rid

of this extra "to" and then we have just three verbs.

"...speak to the manager, return the cellphone, get a refund".

The other way to correct the sentence which is all right, but it's not maybe as effective,

is to say: "She wants to speak to the manager", now we say "to speak".

"She wants to speak to the manager, to return the cellphone and to get a refund."

So then we say: "to speak", "to return", "to get".

All right?

Do you see how it's more balanced that way?

All right?

Two ways in which you could correct it.

Next, number three: "To fly will be better than driving."

Maybe you've written sentences like this.

I do sometimes.

Sometimes I write it like that first, but then I correct it because I'm aware of it.


And as you become more aware of it, you will correct your sentences.

"To fly will be better than driving."

How can we correct this?

Well, the best way to probably correct it is here we have "driving", so here we should

have, what?

Another gerund: "flying".

"Flying will be better than driving."

Okay? Good.

Next, number four: "She wanted love, happiness, and to be secure."

So what do we have there?

"She wanted love", a noun, "happiness", a noun, and then what happened?

The structure of the sentence fell apart.

So instead of having a third noun, the writer went on to say: "...and to be secure".

How can we express this idea: "to be secure" in one word, in one noun?

Do you know it?

It would be: "security".


"She wanted love, happiness, and security."

Now the sentence is balanced, and parallel, and perfect.

All right.

The next one.

Now, it's a little bit more challenging, but stay with me; I think you can do it.

I know you can do it.

"The job demands professional qualifications, the ability to manage others and experience

working around the globe."

Okay, doesn't matter, sometimes we have a lot of things to say.

It's okay if the sentence is long.

But even if it's long, it should still be parallel.

So, how could we make this more parallel?

So let's start here: "The job demands" three things, right?

So the first thing was: "professional qualifications", so what do we have here?

An adjective and a noun.

Then the sentence kind of fell apart, and it said: "the ability to manage others".

So, can we change this part in some way so that it's also an adjective and a noun?

How can we say "the ability to manage others" as an adjective and a noun?

We could say...

Instead of saying: "the ability to manage others", we say: "professional qualifications,

managerial ability", and then again a very longwinded thing, we want to shorten it: "experience

working around the globe".

So can you shorten that to two words, an adjective and a noun also?

Can you do that with me?

So, how can we do that?

We could say: "and global experience".


So now let's listen to the sentence.

"The job demands professional qualifications, managerial ability, and global experience."


Now, this is a beautiful, professional, businesslike parallel sentence.

All right?

Next, the last one here, number six: "Let's start by checking your essay and look for

any faulty parallelism."


So there is a problem there.

"Let's start by checking your essay and look for any faulty parallelism."

It almost sounds like it's okay, but it's not, because we're saying: "Let's start by",

doing what?

"...checking your essay", right?

And so here it should be: "...checking your essay and looking for any faulty parallelism".

Okay, sometimes it's pretty hidden.

It's very normal to write sentences that are not parallel in the beginning, until you start

really becoming aware of it, and then you enjoy it, and then you say: "Wow, my writing

is getting so much better, my speaking is getting so much more powerful."

This is a really powerful technique, okay?

And as I said, if you want to make it even more powerful, check out that other lesson

on: "The Magic of Three", so that you'll learn how to make it parallel three times.


As I did, for example, in sentence number five.


All right.

And if you want to practice this some more, please go to our website:;

there, you can do a quiz on parallelism or parallel structure, and you can also check

out lots of other videos on improving your English.

Hundreds of other videos.

And don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Thanks for watching.

All the best with your English.

Bye for now.