Dreaming of universal parallel structure awareness

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Henderason, flickr.com

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Henderason, flickr.com

I have a dream that all humanity will one day learn to use parallel structure properly. The only problem is that I’m currently stuck in a classroom, listening to my Chinese history professor ramble about Ying-Yang hexagrams, am writing about parallel structure and haven’t taken notes as I really should be.

Unfortunately, these relatable student problems are not the fundamental problem in the previous sentence. What’s even more wrong than a student not paying attention in class is a writer not following parallel structure.

Broadly defined, parallel structure functions to improve clarity through consistency and balance in sentence construction. As a copy editor and rookie grammar police, my job is to catch and correct the delinquent sentences. So, here goes the correction: I’m currently sitting in a classroom, listening to my Chinese history professor, writing about parallel structure and not taking notes as I probably should be.

Here’s the thing about parallel structure: No one really cares about it (unless you’re studying for the SAT or working as a copy editor). The mismatched verb tenses often go unnoticed in spoken language and no one bothers to correct it, ultimately creating a perpetual cycle of parallel structure misuse both in speech and writing. This ignorance needs to change because what people don’t realize is that parallel structure changes the way others perceive you.

When used properly, pre-set parallel structure makes you sound smarter than you probably are. Your writing will demand respect, and your professor will offer that respect in the form of a good grade.

I sometimes boast, “Years of learning to survive as a mediocre student have perfected not only my multi-tasking skills in lecture but also my selective-hearing skills (a.k.a. I only listen to the important stuff).” The pre-set structure here — not only x but also y — is used properly because x and y share the same grammatical construction. Using fancy structures like not only x but also y, more x than y and neither x nor y,  prove to professors you’re capable of articulating complex relationships between variables. But make sure they’re used correctly, or they might backfire and make you look like a complete idiot.

It’s safe to say that Martin Luther King Jr. and I have at least one common point; we both have dreams, only his dream for racial harmony is much nobler than my dream for universal parallel-structure awareness. It’s unlikely that MLK would have risen to such high fame had he not repeated the famous line “I have a dream.” This illustrates that repetition through parallel structure has the power to create a resonating persuasive effect that goes down in history.

Whether you’re dying to get an “A” on that paper or trying to make your mark in history, parallel structure will help you get there. All you have to do is understand the basic grammatical structures and remain vigilant when writing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s only one fitting way to conclude this rant about parallel structure: I have a dream that one day universal parallel-structure awareness will become everyone’s dream.