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Parallel structure (also called parallelism) is when two or more items (for example, nouns or clauses) are balanced within a sentence or between sentences; that is, they are treated equally grammatically and logically. Parallel structure helps ensure your reader correctly interprets your ideas because if you don’t show how two or more items clearly connect, your reader could get confused. For example, the first sentence below illustrates a lack of parallelism with one list item, “racial,” being an adjective and the rest nouns. The second sentence is revised to be grammatically parallel (all nouns):
- Example: Not only do racial, gender, class, and sexuality affect a student’s academic success, but their sense of belonging also plays a big role.
- Revision: Not only do race, gender, class, and sexuality affect a student’s academic success, but their sense of belonging also plays a big role.
This parallelism signals to the reader that each of these nouns equally affects a student’s academic success. Your sentences should be grammatically parallel, as well as logically parallel, meaning your ideas must be logically ordered.