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Parallelism, Worksheet 1, 9 Exercises
Parallelism, Worksheet 2, 16 Exercises

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The Problem

A sentence exhibits parallelism if similar ideas are expressed using the same syntactic and grammatical structure. Writers use parallel structures to communicate ideas that have the same importance using the same grammatical structure.

Parallelism is most common using gerund phrases (verb + ing) or infinitives (to + verb). Faulty parallelism occurs when writers do not use a parallel structure to communicate a series of ideas.

Faulty Parallelism: Without good pitching, the Marlins can be expected to lose more than eighty games, to draft early in next year's draft, and attendance will suffer greatly.

What are the ideas that seem to have the same importance?

  1. The Marlins will lose more than eighty games.
  2. The Marlins will draft early in next year's draft.
  3. The Marlins' attendance will suffer greatly.

Note that we have two infinitive phrases and one independent clause.

A revision using parallel structure can be worded as follows:

Correct Parallelism: Without good pitching, the Marlins can be expected to lose more than eighty games, to draft early in next year's draft, and to suffer greatly in attendance.

The term parallelism also applies to using correlative conjunctions and comparisons properly.

Correlative Conjunctions

Take a look at the following list of correlative conjunctions.

  • both, and;
  • not, but;
  • not only, but also;
  • either, or;
  • whether, or;
  • neither, nor.

These conjunctions connect words, phrases, and clauses that have the same level of meaning in the same sentence. Use the same grammatical structure with both elements of the correlative.

Faulty Parallelism: Andrew was both an industrious student, and he was also an excellent athlete.

Correct Parallelism: Andrew was both an industrious student and an excellent athlete.

Notice that since an (adjective + noun) pair is used with both elements, no comma is needed. If you use not only ... but also with independent clauses, you must separate the clauses with a comma, and you sometimes place the subject pronoun between the word but and the word also.

Example: Jessica not only excelled in mathematics, but she also astounded audiences with her musical talent.


Use a parallel structure when you connect two words, phrases, or clauses with a comparison word, including than or as.

Faulty Parallelism: Sharon's grade point average is much higher than her brother.

Correct Parallelism: Sharon's grade point average is much higher than her brother's (grade point average).

Correct Parallelism: Sharon has a higher grade point average than her brother (does).

A good parallel structure can add a certain elan to a sentence that has equivalent or evenly-balanced parts.

For a more detailed explanation and exercises, download the free worksheets. They are in PDF format.

The front page explains parallelism and explains how to correct errors in parallelism. The second page consists of sentences that the student must correct. There is space provided below each sentence, so that the student actually has to write out the sentence, rather than merely identifying an error.

Worksheet 1, 9 Exercises

  1. We debated between two options immigration had given us: going back to Nicaragua or to stay in the US with no hope of ever going back.
  2. My uncle Julius likes bagels, lox, and eating chicken salad.
  3. Bill not only runs five miles every day, he consumes eight thousand calories.
  4. Jose's daughter will either attend Harvard, or she plans to go to the Stanford.
  5. The principal is excited about both the swim team earning national honors, and that the debate team won its first tournament.
  6. Fatima's knowledge of accounting is greater than Farah.
  7. Miranda's flowers are neither red, nor are they orange.
  8. Stephen King's book reviews were as positive as Asimov.
  9. The house sitter lost the keys, neglected the dogs, and she also trashed the kitchen.

Worksheet 2, 16 Exercises

  1. My parents considered getting a divorce or they would obtain a legal separation.
  2. Meaghan was excited by the prospect of visiting Paris, or that she might attend a family reunion in Italy.
  3. Katherine told me that after school she would practice volleyball, conduct the science experiment, and she would also apply for a job at Starbuck's.
  4. Publishing the first edition of the literary magazine and the fact that the editorial staff attended the FCCPA conference in Daytona Beach cost the administration $8000.
  5. The veterinarian examined the lab results, consulted with a colleague, and he also studied the stool specimen under a microscope before meeting with the owner of the expensive bulldog.
  6. Kiara's ability to read complex passages quickly is greater than Sally.
  7. After Neil ran home, he thought he would either play basketball or he might also study his piano lessons.
  8. Jasmine not only listens to political speeches; she analyzes them and posts her opinions on Facebook.
  9. If the Tampa Bay Rays win, they will play either The New York Yankees or they will face the Texas Rangers.
  10. Joshua sometimes wrote poorly researched essays that were sloppy, and they were not well organized.
  11. Ruthie always knew that her pumpkin pie recipe was better than Aunt Sally.
  12. After dropping out of Annapolis, Roger promised himself that he would finish college, write a book, and that he would invest in the stock market.
  13. Either Jasmine will study chemical engineering or anthropology.
  14. Although Richard's inheritance is substantial, it is still smaller than his sister.
  15. Rosemary practiced her faith by giving money to the poor, preparing and serving food during the holidays, and she also served as a volunteer in the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
  16. The baseball coach wants players who are hard-working, determined, and who get along well with their teammates.

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