Parallel Construction and Conjunctions

Parallel form means that ideas in a sentence need to be similar in structure.

So far we have covered some basic parallel structures. However, not all of your sentences will be so easily constructed using parallel form. In this section we will discuss other ways sentences can violate the parallel form rule.

Conjunctions and Parallel form

Let’s take a look at Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The speech is full of good examples of parallel form. For now, we will look at the opening sentence:

Abe sitting in chair

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Unlike the previous examples, this example of parallel form is not found in a sentence listing three or more items. A key word to look for is the conjunction and. The conjunction and signals that two ideas are going to be connected, so it is important to make sure that the words or phrases are parallel.  Both phrases, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition, demonstrate good parallel form because the verb, conceived, parallels the verb, dedicated. Even though the verbs are not necessarily next to each other in the sentence, the conjunction and joins the phrases, and thus, the phrases should be parallel.

Here is another example showing the conjunction and connecting phrases: 

Working to meet a deadline is important, and looking for support is also important.

The sentence is parallel because both phrases are similar in structure. Both phrases start with a verb ending in ing: working and looking. Verbs that end in ing are also known as gerunds.

Other conjunctions, like but and or, can signal parallel form. Take a look at this example using the conjunction but:

Planning is critical, but doing the job properly is equally important.  

The conjunction but signals that the two phrases planning is critical and doing the job properly are connected. Therefore, both phrases need to be similar in structure; in other words parallel. Using the gerunds planning and doing (both verbs end in ing) make the sentence parallel.

This sentence could also be rewritten using a different verb form. An infinitive is a type of verb phrase with the word to before the verb.

To plan is critical, but to do the job properly is equally important.

Changing each phrase to begin with an infinitive, to plan and to do, makes the sentence parallel, too.  You can be parallel and at times sound like Yoda from “Star Wars” like this last example; so be careful not to go too far to the Dark Side in seeking out parallelism.

Lists and Parallel Form

At times, you may be listing items in your reports. Although the items may be bulleted, be sure the listed items follow parallel form.  This is probably one of the most common errors experienced by examiners in writing supervisory products.

Here is an example of a bulleted list following parallel form:

The bank examination focused on the following:

  • comparing past and current earnings trends,
  • identifying discretionary cash processes, and
  • determining the adequacy of liquidity.

Each bulleted item starts with a verb ending in ing: comparing, identifying and determining.

Let’s look at another example of a list in parallel form.

The report listed the following issues:

  • violations of Regulation O,
  • inadequate internal controls and
  • inadequate oversight of the loan portfolio.

Each bulleted item is in the form of a noun phrase.  Each item is describing a specific noun: Regulation O, controls and portfolio. Remember, lists, even in the form of bullets, must also follow parallel form.  Each listed item must be similar in grammatical structure. For example, each item may start with a verb, adjective, noun, etc., or be in the form of a phrase, like the noun phrase shown above.Now let’s practice some of the new types of parallel form we just covered. Click Next when you are ready to begin the practice questions.

Before moving on, take note:  Conjunctions—and, or, but—signal the reader that two or more ideas listed will be connected. Therefore, these ideas need to be similar in structure. In other words, they need to be in parallel form. Also, when including lists in your reports, bulleted lists should also be in parallel form.