English Grammar Review
Sentences and Choices

Choose Consistency

A purposeful consistency is the steward of effective writers. Plainly put: things that are presented with consistency are things that are easy to read.

Most textbooks on English grammar say, "Express parallel ideas in parallel form!" This is guidance for good writing, not a rule of grammar. But you might as well consider it a rule because it is so effective.

There are many ways to arrange your writing in parallel. We will focus on five:

Compounds

We should use parallel structure for compound elements that are similar in thought and function.

Giulia spent a quiet week reading, finished some writing, and even designed a new user interface.

Giulia spent a quiet week reading, writing, and designing a new user interface.
[parallel]

Comparisons

Avoid incomplete parallelism when making a comparison.

Our factory in Milan is more efficient than our main competitor.

Our factory in Milan is more efficient than our main competitor's.
[parallel]

Alternatives

Sentence elements that follow correlative conjunctions should be written in parallel format.

Every customer service agent must agree either to learn Italian or English.

Every customer service agent must agree to learn either Italian or English.
[parallel]

Patterns

Try to avoid abrupt shifts in clause patterns.

Lorenzo's photo shows the assembly line in the foreground, and the stock room is behind it.

Lorenzo's photo shows the assembly line in the foreground and the stock room in the background.
[parallel]

Enumerations

Parallelism is especially helpful when you are presenting a list of things to pay attention to.

This report will discuss:
1. How to analyze activity-based cost data.
2. Identifying best practices.
3. Describe the role of accounting.

[no parallels]

This report will discuss:
1. Ways to analyze activity-based cost data.
2. Tools to identify best practices.
3. The role of accounting.

[parallel topics]

Parallelism that strongly attracts and keeps the readers' attention can be achieved with brief imperatives:

This report will tell executives how to:
1. Analyze activity-based cost data.
2. Identify best practices.
3. Manage accounting.

[parallel imperatives]

Lesson: Choose Consistency
Module: Sentences and Choices
Course: English Grammar Review