Writing Lists in Parallel Structure

Why Parallel Structure Matters
You’re unlikely to be praised for writing lists using parallel structure. Yet fail to do so, and people will take note. It’s easy to recognize lists that are not parallel because they don’t make sense or sound right. As a result, your writing will come across as sloppy and confusing. Conversely, when each item in your list follows the same grammatical structure, your writing will be easier to read and understand.

An Obvious Example
Consider this list of work responsibilities from a job resume:

  • Designed and developed promotional materials
  • Processed customer orders
  • Documented customer complaints
  • Good team member

Lists in parallel structureNotice how the last item in the list breaks the pattern of beginning each statement with an action verb. The problem quickly becomes apparent if you read just the first word of each statement:

  • Designed …
  • Processed …
  • Documented …
  • Good …

The last item disrupts the flow of the list and feels out of place. This seemingly subtle inconsistency can detract readers from the importance of your message.


The Impact on You
Though your readers may not recognize a job well done, they’ll be quick to notice irregularities in your writing, which can reflect on you and your professionalism. When writing lists, ensure that each item follows the same grammatical form … that you are writing lists in parallel structure. This small change can make a big difference in how you’re perceived by others.

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