Making Lists Parallel

Instructions: For each item, click on one of the boxes and then click "Check." Feedback will appear in a pop-up window, and your cumulative score will appear here.

Parallelism in Lists

     In speech and in drafting we often get sloppy in lists, particularly when we're on a roll. Notice how the following list shifts from a crisp series of five adjectives to a hodgepodge of apples and bananas at the end:

    Powerful but Sloppy:

      You're morally reprehensible, vulgar, insensitive, selfish, stupid, you have no taste, a lousy sense of humor, and you smell.
      (From the film The Witches of Eastwick)

     Writing, though, affords us the luxury of revising so as to gain more control of our words. Listing only apples (saving bananas for separate treatment) is called "parallelism."
     Parallelism means that the sentence parts joined by AND, BUT, and OR are all of the same type. If they are not, they are said to be "non-parallel." The most common kind of non-parallel structure is that in which the last element in a series of three or more differs from the other items in form. This exercise will help you to identify listed items that do not fit into the sentence properly.