A balancing act

In a world where imagination is the only contender and where the laws of physics are hotly contested—in the circus world—the act of balancing rivals even the act of breathing, both are essential for survival and success.

The world of writing includes balancing acts, as well.

One such balancing act involves parallel construction.

If something is parallel in meaning or emphasis, to show either equality or contrast, it should be parallel in form. As such, it lends clarity, consistency and cadence in writing.

A classic example of this is I came; I saw; I left.

The equality of each act is demonstrated in the equal treatment of each repetition of subject and verb. And the semicolons are used to link the acts together. Coming and seeing are equally as important as leaving.

There is also a cadence, an almost lyrical quality when this kind of balancing act is achieved. When you read it out loud, you can hear it: “I came; I saw; I left.”

Clarity, consistency, cadence because the parallel construction provides balance.

Try using parallel construction in the following sentence.

I like to ski and I like snowboarding.

Parallel construction provides clarity. Verb tenses need to be parallel, as well: I like skiing and snowboarding.

When using correlatives—both, and; not, only; but, also; either, or; neither, nor—with parallel construction, be sure that the verb following each correlative is parallel; otherwise, the reader will feel like an unsuspecting driver hitting a pothole.

That is not only irritating, but also confused. (Can you make this parallel?)

Parallelism is also achieved by repeating correlative phrases such as “the more I”: The more I expect, the more I achieve.

How would you correct the following awkward construction?

It doesn’t matter what kind of home you live in or car you drive.

When you make the prepositions parallel, it becomes instantly clear: It doesn’t matter what kind of home you live in or what kind of car you drive.

Always read your writing out loud to decide where parallel construction is needed.

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