Writing with Concord
Parallel Structure
Parallel structure for related ideas
Parallel structure for opposites
Review A
Review B
Parallel structure for related ideas
Expressing related ideas in similar forms keeps
writing on track.
Like railroad tracks, these similar
forms are said to be parallel.
Parallel structure is the
arrangement of corresponding parts
of a sentence or group of sentences
in similar grammatical forms.
Parallel structure for related ideas
Some of the greatest speakers and
writers have used parallel structure
to make their thoughts memorable.
Thomas Jefferson ended the Declaration
of Independence with this memorable
clause:
[W]e mutually pledge to each other our
our lives,
lives,
our fortunes,
our
fortunes, and
and our
oursacred
sacredhonor.
honor.
Note the parallel grammatical forms our + noun
The repetition of the key word our adds to the
sense of order and purpose in the passage.
Parallel structure for related ideas
Parallel structure can be used to
connect single words, phrases,
clauses, or even entire sentences.
Here General Douglas MacArthur
uses three strong nouns and three
noun clauses in his farewell speech
to the cadets at West Point.
Duty, honor, country—those three hallowed
words reverently dictate what you ought to be,
what you can be, and what you will be.
nouns
noun clauses
Parallel structure for related ideas
Parallel structure is often seen in a series of three items.
In his speech “I Have a Dream,” Martin Luther King, Jr.,
proclaims
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious
hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring
from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening
Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
King repeats the key clause “let freedom ring” three
times, each instance followed by a prepositional phrase.
Each phrase also contains parallel elements:
from the + adjective + noun + of + name of state
Parallel structure for opposites
Another technique of rhetoric is to
express opposites in parallel
structures.
Abraham Lincoln used parallel
structure to express opposites in
his Gettysburg Address:
with malice toward none,
with charity for all
with + contrasting nouns + preposition + contrasting pronouns
Parallel structure for opposites
Here Winston Churchill expresses the contrast
between two systems of government by using
parallel structure.
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal
sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism
is the equal sharing of miseries.
the inherent + contrasting nouns + of + noun
the + contrasting adjectives + sharing of + contrasting nouns
How does the use of parallel structure bring out the
contrast that Churchill is making?
Parallel structure for opposites
One special kind of parallel structure that orators use to
relate opposites is called chiasmus.
This technique gets its name
from the Greek letter chi, which
looks like an X.
ΦΧΨΩ
Like an X, chiasmus involves making two statements
that “cross,” as in this sentence from John F. Kennedy’s
inaugural address:
B
A
Let us never negotiate out of fear,
B
A
but let us never fear to negotiate.
Parallel structure for opposites
One of the most famous examples of chiasmus in
American rhetoric comes from the same speech.
Ask not what your country can do for you,
ask what you can do for your country.
Notice the parallel structure that makes this contrast
possible. Both halves of the sentence are parallel and
contain noun clauses that are also parallel.
ask + noun clause
what + subject + can do + prepositional phrase starting with for
Parallel structure
On Your Own
The following sentences contain words that are not parallel in
form. Revise each sentence to create parallel structure.
1. Jen completed the test quickly, but her work was
incorrect.
2. Both nations agreed to stop fighting, and they are now
pursuing peace.
3. If we act on our emotions, then our emotions will perform
actions on us.
4. Optimists see the best in every situation, while
pessimists are seeing what is worst.
[End of Section]
Review A
Identify each group of parallel structures in this famous
sentence from President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give
expression to America's prayerful and continuing
aspiration: We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races,
all nations, may have their great human needs
satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall
come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for
freedom may experience its few spiritual blessings.
Review B
Write three statements contrasting your thoughts or
experiences as a child with what you know or do now. Make
each statement parallel in structure, and include one
example of chiasmus.
The End
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