Make it match!

by Mackenzie Batten

Last year, I was given the task to explain parallel structure to my Teaching the Writing Process class. I found that it is a really crucial concept because it can seem simple to understand, but can actually get fairly complicated. My class and I found some basic ideas about parallel structure helpful, so I thought I would share them with the blog!

Parallel structure must be followed when writing lists by using the same pattern of words or phrases. This shows the reader that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. You could write:

Tony loves eating, playing and sleeping.

Tony loves to eat, to play, and to sleep.


Tony loves to eat, play, and sleep.

…And they would all be correct. The only time you run into trouble is if you mix and match them: 

Tony loves eating, to play and sleep.

One way I like to test to see if a list is parallel is by making each item on the list into its own sentence. Let’s use the following sentence as an example:

My mom taught me how to clean, how to read, and she instructed me on fish-feeding.

Now, to break the sentence up:

My mom taught me how to clean.

My mom taught me how to read.


My mom taught me she instructed me on fish-feeding.

While the first two sentences make grammatical sense, the last does not, so you would know that you need to rewrite that part of the sentence.

Here’s how that sentence could look:

My mom taught me how to clean, how to read, and how to feed my fish.


My mom taught me how to clean, read, and feed my fish.

If there is one thing to take out of this lesson, it is that CONSISTENCY IS KEY!


Mackenzie is a sophomore at Principia College. She is majoring in political science and economics and minoring in business administration. She hopes to go to law school after graduating from Principia.


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