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What does Parallelism Refer to in Writing?

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. December 28, 2017
What does Parallelism Refer to in Writing?

In English writing and grammar, the term parallelism refers to a balance kept between different sentences having similar clauses or phrases and same grammatical structure. In English grammar, parallelism is also termed as parallel construction or parallel structure. Applying the concept of parallelism in writing improves readability and the writing style. Content structured with parallelism is easier to read, understand and remember. This oneHOWTO article will talk in detail about what does parallelism refer to in writing?

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  1. Definition of Parallelism
  2. Features of Parallelism
  3. Literary Examples of Parallelism
  4. Tools of Parallelism
  5. Functions of Parallelism

Definition of Parallelism

In writing, parallelism is a grammatical or literary device that writers use to make moments in their writings more alluring and memorable. This is a tool that can be used to make grammatically same sentences, or sentences that are similar in construction. It may be a phrase, a word or even a sentence. Having similar structured words, phrases or sentences make the writing rhythmic, compelling and memorable.

Features of Parallelism

Parallelism is a wonderful, persuasive tool for writers and literature experts. It has a repetitive quality that makes its sentences symmetrical and easy to understand, memorize and remember. When parallelism is applied to a sentence, it becomes easier for the readers to process it in their minds. This is because the readers can sense the pattern and know what is coming next.

Remember the line ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’ from Julius Caesar? Did you notice its sentence construction? Each phrase in the sentence starts with ‘I’ followed by a verb. The structure sounds appealing, and at the same time it stands out in the mind of the reader. This is why this line became so popular in English literature. If it had been structured differently as a normal sentence, it would have been ‘I came here, and when I saw it, I conquered it’. This kind of sentence construction would have been lengthy, unbalanced and bulky. By structuring this sentence like this way, it loses its appeal and memorable nature it is known for.

What does Parallelism Refer to in Writing? - Features of Parallelism

Literary Examples of Parallelism

The major intention of using parallelism in writing is to appeal the reader, and to make something easy to understand and remember. Literary works frequently use parallelism to emphasize ideas or communicate moral messages. This device is commonly used in proverbs all across the world. Proverbs are popular expressions aimed at revealing human experience, learning or truth. Here are some common English proverbs that have used parallelism to convey their messages:

  1. Easy come, easy go: This proverb generally means the money that you earn easily has chances to leave your pockets easily too. The word ‘easy’ is repeated, followed by a verb, thus applying parallelism
  2. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going: This means that when things become difficult, strong people start working harder instead of giving up. The phrase ‘going gets tough’ is repeated with an aim to make it sound similar. However the order of words is flipped around to change the meaning and convey the message
  3. Like father, like son: This phrase is usually used when a son looks or does a thing just like his father. For women, the proverb goes like ‘like mother, like daughter. The word ‘like’ is repeated along with a noun to convey a message
  4. What you see is what you get: This proverb usually refers to the fact that you will get a thing exactly as you get it. Companies frequently use this phrase to convey their message that the product that their customers get will be exactly the same as shown in the ad or commercial. It is also used in the field of computers in order to describe that the printed page will be exactly the same as you see it on the screen. In this proverb, ‘what you’ is repeated with a short verb to convey the intended message
  5. Nothing ventured, nothing gained: It means that you cannot gain anything without taking risks and trying to achieve it. In this proverb, the word ‘nothing’ is repeated followed by a verb

After reading these examples, you must have got a clear idea of what parallelism is, how it repeats words, and it is used to convey messages and make statements.

Tools of Parallelism

Parallelism in writing is usually achieved using a number of tools, including symploce, epistrophe, climax, asyndeton, anaphora and antithesis which are common figures of speech. Let’s talk a little about each of them:

  • Symploce: This is a figure of speech which uses a phrase of word successively in the beginning of sentences or clauses. Another phrase or word with similar wording is added at the very end of the sentences or clauses to use it successively
  • Epistrophe: It is repetition of same word successively in sentences, clauses or phrases. Also known as epiphora or antistrophe, it is an emphatic tool as it lays emphasis on the last word of a sentence or phrase
  • Climax: It is a figure of speech which arranges words, clauses or phrases as per their increasing importance. This tool is often used in advertising in order to create a false dilemma and to focus on certain aspects of a subject or product. The inferior aspect placed in the beginning appears less important than the most important aspect placed in the end. The standard format is ‘A is good, B is better, C is best’
  • Asyndeton: This figure of speech omits one or more conjunctions from a group of clauses. Just like in ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’, it speeds the passage’s rhythm and makes the idea more memorable. It may be contrasted with the description of one or more multiple conjunctions that coordinate with each other. In this kind of conjunction, no coordinating conjunction is placed between any conjuncts
  • Anaphora: This is a rhetoric tool that repeats a word sequence at the starting of a neighboring clause, while lending emphasis on it. In addition to emphasizing on certain ideas, it adds rhythm to a sentence and makes it easier to read, understand and remember. It delivers artistic effects to a sentence. Its appeal is effective in persuading, inspiring, motivating and encouraging the readers.
  • Antithesis: This tool is used for introducing a contrasting effect in writing. It involves a contradiction of words, clauses, sentences or ideas within a balanced structure of grammar. Parallelism serves the purpose of laying emphasis on the opposition of ideas. It always contains two or more ideas in a single statement.

While reading a piece of writing, you will realize that it has used any of these tools to emphasize on certain points and make it clearer to understand.

Functions of Parallelism

Parallelism is paramount in writing. Without creating parallel words, clauses, phrases and sentences, writing will become awkward, and readers will fail to understand and memorize it easily, especially in some poems such as Sonnets and Limericks. Parallelism is widely used by writers to improve consistency and coherence in their writings. One example of poor structure is ‘My Mom brought some clothes, lots of sweets and lights for this Christmas’. Good structure would be ‘My Mom brought clothes, sweets and lights for this Christmas’. The difference between two of them exists in the use of adjectives. Although you are able to understand the first sentence, the second one is better in consistency and coherence. If you are using adjectives to describe nouns, then you should use one adjective for every noun, or remove all the adjectives like in the second sentence.

What does Parallelism Refer to in Writing? - Functions of Parallelism

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What does Parallelism Refer to in Writing?