Creating Rhythm and Balance with Parallelisms

When writers use very similar wording across several sentences or lines of poetry, it’s known as parallel sentence structure. Doing this creates rhythm and balance. Parallel sentence structures are also known as parallelisms. Simple parallelisms may be as short as words or phrases. More complex ones may combine entire clauses or sentences. Parallel sentence structures can highlight aspects of stories and poems in many ways.

Simple Parallel Sentence Structures

Simple parallel sentence structures combine words, prepositional phrases, and infinitive phrases. To divide simple structures, you can use punctuation like commas and semicolons. You can also use conjunctions, like and, or, and but. The poem “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee has an example of prepositional phrases in parallel structure: “From laden boughs, from hands, / from sweet fellowship in the bins, / comes nectar at the roadside.” Here, the repeated prepositional phrases give the poem flow and rhythm.

Complex Parallel Sentence Structures

Complex parallel sentence structures join lengthier clauses or groups of sentences. This allows writers to emphasize, compare, and contrast aspects of their stories and poetry. Here’s an example from the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe: “I was a child, and she was a child, / In this kingdom by the sea, / But we loved with a love that was more than love- / I and my Annabel Lee- / With a love that the winged seraphs of Heaven / Coveted her and me.”

The parallel structures I was a child and she was a child emphasize how young the two lovers are. Repeating with a love emphasizes the depth of the narrator’s love.

Faulty Parallelism

A faulty parallelism is a sentence structure that’s not quite parallel. It’s usually more a problem with style than grammar. For instance, this sentence is grammatically correct, but not exactly a parallelism: “He likes good food, wearing nice clothes, and rock-and-roll bands.” Here’s how it would look as a parallel structure: “He likes eating good food, wearing nice clothes, and listening to rock-and-roll bands.”

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