Parallelisms: what the hell is that?
Imagine if you could make your writing sound really readable.
Imagine if you could do it with one simple change.
Imagine if there was someone awesome who could help…
What is a ‘parallelism’?
Solid question, my friend. Parallelisms occur when you have matching structures or elements in your sentence. It may sound like an unnecessarily flouncy technique, but readers enjoy parallel structures, even if they don’t realise it—the copy flows more effortlessly and is far easier to read.
Allow me to demonstrate through the majestic power of Blondie…
Although the majority of the lyrics in the song Call Me are created in parallel structures, let’s grab a gander at the chorus:
Call me on the line
Call me, call me any, anytime
Call me my love
You can call me any day or night
Ms. Debbie has structured her lyrics just like the parallelogram from maths GCSE—the lines mirror one another but never touch. They each start with the ‘call me’ request and deviate separately from there.
So each element in the sentence needs to be framed in the same way. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But oh no.
How can parallelisms fuck you up?
At first glance, parallelisms seem to be the thing of lyrics and poetry, but that’s only when you’re repeating the same sentence format. You can make a sentence parallel by ensuring the words fit the same context as one another.
Read the following sentence:
Sarah loudly and with style threw up the 10 beers she drank.
Something about it feels off, wouldn’t you agree? Besides the puke, I mean. This is because we’ve mixed an adjective (‘style’) with an adverb (‘loudly’).
This sentence is as messed up as Sarah and her 10 beers.
Here’s how we can make that shit parallel:
Sarah loudly and stylishly threw up the 10 beers she drank.
Both these words are now adverbs, so they mirror each other in the sentence, rather than being mismatched and corrupting the nice flow we’ve got going on.
Because I’m all about solutions, you can straight up correct the sentence by changing the order:
With style, Sarah loudly threw up the ten beers she drank.
This isn’t parallel, but it sounds a damn sight better.
Have you come up against parallelisms in your writing? Got questions about them? Leave a comment below and let’s talk.