There’s a phrase in grammar that relates to math, English, and gymnastics — even Chicago’s extra season: construction. The phrase I’m referring to is parallel construction.
For example, if the beginning of a sentence prefaces bulleted items, the words that follow — nouns, verbs, prepositional phrases, etc. — should be parallel. That is, if the first word after the first bullet is a verb, the other words should be not only verbs but also verbs in the same tense. And if they are infinitives (to do, to see, to pack, to move), then they should all be infinitives. Here are some examples of parallel construction:
At our job, we get to:
Read a wonderful, informative newsletter every week
Work with delightful people
Eat a lot of good food, since it’s always lying around
Please notice how all of the bulleted verbs use the same form of the verb and are, therefore, parallel in construction. They are actually part of an infinitive, e.g., to read, to move, to work, to eat.
When I went to Las Vegas last week, I didn’t gamble but had a lot of fun because I:
Went to three fantastic shows
Lay in the sun
Explored the hotels
Heard a terrific band three times for free
And notice that even the prepositional phrases in a sentence need to be parallel:
We saw him in the pool, at the casino, and near the restaurant.
So please keep parallelism in your mind when you write — and by the way, isn’t Chicago’s construction absolutely beautiful today?
My English Quarters
Hallie Belt, M.A. and B.A., English