How to Write In Parallel Structure and Why Doing So Helps the Reader

By: Scott McEachern, legal practitioner coach

Legal Professional Writing a Resume on Laptop Computer Writing in parallel structure or the use of parallelisms, means to write with consistent grammar as well as with a consistent format and style whether within sentence form or within bulleted form.  As explained below, the use of parallelisms provides an ease of reading for the recipient of the communication and thereby provides the writer with a greater likelihood of being understood, of being persuasive, and of being perceived as professional.

Parallelisms

Do you know what parallelisms are?  If so, then you probably already noticed that the opening paragraph of this article contained three groups of parallels.  For example, the final sentence in the opening paragraph contained a list benefits available by using parallelisms, and the list was stated in parallel structure itself, whereas the sentence said that parallelisms provide, "a greater likelihood of being understood, being persuasive, and being perceived as professional."  Grammatically, each item in the list used a verb ending in ing (a gerund) and indeed each was item began with the same word, being, which delivered a flow and ease to the overall sentence structure.  If you disagree, try rewriting the sentence without the same grammatical structure:

Parallelisms provide a greater likelihood of understanding, persuasiveness, and perception, as professional.

Now, how much more of an awkward read was that?  Does the easy-to-read benefit of writing with parallelisms outweight the risk of confusing the reader?  Of course.

Lists

In addition to parallelisms within sentence structure, parallelisms within lists, whether as numbered lists or as bulleted lists, are equally important.  Indeed, parallelisms within numbered lists or bulleted lists are perhaps more important as, visually, the parallelisms, or the lack of parallelisms, are more easily recognized; and accordingly, grammatically skilled practitioners within the legal profession will quickly recognize whether you are grammatically skilled when writing; and, in a profession that heavily critiques quality writing abilities and judges professionalism based on writing quality, do you truly want your writing to appear as anything below superb?

To demonstrate how numbered lists or bulleted lists benefit from parallelism, shown below are the same examples as used above:

Without Parallelism

Parallelisms provide a greater likelihood of:

  1. Understanding;
  2. Persuasiveness; and
  3. Perception as professional.
With Parallelism

Parallelisms provide a greater likelihood of:

  1. Being understood;
  2. Being persuasive; and
  3. Being perceived as professional.

Again, and indeed, parallel writing helps to ensure that your communications hold a greater likelihood of being understood, being persuasive, and being perceived as professional.

Additional Resources
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