Stylistic Devices – Parallelism

parallel sentence structure

Successive clauses or sentences are similarly structured. This similarity makes it easier for the reader / listener to concentrate on the message.

Example:

  • We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interest, and teach us what it means to be citizens. (2)
  • The mediocre teacher tells, The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. (William A. Ward)
  • The mistakes of the fool are known to the world, but not to himself. The mistakes of the wise man are known to himself, but not to the world. (Charles Caleb Colton)
  • Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn. (Benjamin Franklin)

Note: When writing, parallelism is a useful device for instructions. Due to the parallel structure, the reader can concentrate on the message and will immediately know what to do (see examples below).

Example 1 (no parallelism):

  • Open the book first.
  • You must read the text now.
  • There are pictures in the book–Look at them.
  • The questions must be answered.

Example 2 (parallelism):

  • Open the book.
  • Read the text.
  • Look at the pictures.
  • Answer the questions.

You surely agree that the second instruction is easier to follow (and to remember) than the first one. The change of structure in the first example is confusing and distracts the reader from the actual message. It might be okay with simple messages like the ones we used here. But following more complex instructions is really hard if they are not in parallel structure.