Parallelism: The secret to great writing


Hi. 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. Okay? 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. Okay? 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. Okay? 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.” Okay? Now, you see how that
seems really balanced? Okay? 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.” Okay? So we have here: “quickly”,
“carefully”, two adverbs. And last: “We enjoy comedies,
dramas, and documentaries.” So you have here three nouns. Right? So that’s what’s important: nouns with nouns,
adverbs with adverbs, adjectives with adjectives – you get the idea. Okay? 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. Okay? Let’s get started. Okay, now you help me to find the faulty parallelism,
the mistakes in parallel structure in these sentences. All right? Let’s go. Number one: “The lightbulbs are in the
cabinet, on the table or the kitchen sink.” Okay? Think for a second: Is there
a mistake in this sentence? There is. First of all, there are
mistakes in all of these. Okay? 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.” Okay? 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 here? 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”. “…in the cabinet, on the
table, under the kitchen sink”. Now this sentence is parallel. Congratulations. 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. Okay? 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”. Okay? “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”. Okay? So now let’s listen
to the sentence. “The job demands professional qualifications,
managerial ability, and global experience.” Okay? 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.” Okay? 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. Okay? As I did, for example,
in sentence number five. Okay? All right. And if you want to practice this some more,
please go to our website: www.engvid.com; 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.

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