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Parallel Structures

Parallel structures are a common feature in academic writing. Correct parallel structures help the reader to read the sentences more easily.

What is a parallel structure?

Parallel structures are a feature of writing which involves using a repeated pattern of words, phrases or clauses in a sentence. They are linked using words like ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘or’ (coordinating conjunctions). You use the same word form or grammatical form as for the first one in your sentence.

The disadvantages of having your own home are maintaining the property, paying high rates and servicing the mortgage.

Incorrect parallel structures are quite common in writing. These are fortunately easy to fix if you just pay attention to a few rules. If you read over a sentence, especially a longer one which you feel isn’t quite right, check to see if an incorrect parallel structure is the cause.

With the 'ing form (gerund)

Anton enjoys reading, writing and playing games on the computer.


With infinitive phrases

Examples (1)
Anton likes to read, to study and to play games on his computer
Or Anton likes to read, study and play games on his computer.

Example (2)
Josie’s mother told her she was lazy because she refused to clean her room, do the dishes or finish her homework. Note that the word ‘to’ is understood to be there for each of the verbs i.e. ‘to do the dishes’, or ‘to finish … ‘.

Clauses and parallel structures

Clauses: Keep the same pattern of clauses if using clauses. Also remember to keep the same word form.
Example: The principal told the students that they should pay attention to their teacher, that they should study hard and that they should get enough sleep.

Or: The principal told the students that they should pay attention to their teacher, study hard and get enough sleep.