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Advanced Composition 

Pretty Parallels: Capturing a Reader's Eye

March 3, 2005

Parallelism is the repetition of a pattern inside our sentences. Using parallel structures shows the reader that ideas are equally important and, as a result, are easier to remember and to read.

These structures can be simple:

Gerund nouns in a list: I like skiing, swimming, and hiking.

 or complex 

Repetition in a balanced sentence: 
I would rather eat cake; moreover, I could easily eat two!

Word balances word; phrase balances phrase; sentence balances sentence.

Examples of Parallel Structures:

Michael wanted to catch a snake, put it in a cage, and take it to school.

She was a woman who loved grammar, enjoyed sentences, and adored paragraphs.

I came; I saw; I conquered.


Writing Topic:

Very often, we delay things in our lives. This is called "procrastination." Sometimes we postpone doing our homework; other times, we resist making a decision.

Write about a time where you procrastinated. Use at least two sets of parallel structures in your short paragraph.


     Take your rough draft home with you today.

     Make at least five corrections to the draft and recopy the paragraph.

     Hand in your original and your revised copy to class next week.


Two Teacher Examples:

A Procrastinating Paragraph

     Since I am a procrastinator by nature, I have had many experiences, good and bad, but one of my worst habits, that is to say perhaps my worst habit, is to take a bit too long to get to the point. Now, what was I saying? I know that my students—ever patient with my ways and ever helpful in their hearts—love to listen to my stories, no matter whether the story furthers my idea, or even when the story is beside it (the point, I mean). You may argue that this is not really procrastination, but I argue that it is. “To delay” the dictionary says or to “put off” or “dally” or even “postpone” when describing the word “procrastinate” and I have to agree, dallying as I am, right now, as I write this paragraph for you. But it is a laugh or a lark, this piece of writing, tonight. In it, I hope to have shown you something, to have opened your eyes, to have engaged you and, if I have, then it has been a success. So perhaps I am a natural procrastinator, then, and if you have read to the end, you are not! (200 words; written by Brad Hyde in May, 2002)

An Exercise in Procrastination

     I procrastinated when I returned to university in the early 1990’s. I hadn’t studied in a long time. I was scared. My first course—Canadian history; my first task— to write an essay. I had to write six, but the first one was by far the worst. I had no time limits because my course was taken through the Open University. I owned no computer, so all my work was done on an electric typewriter. It gave me a good reason to procrastinate. While typing, I could make mistakes and waste paper. Researching and writing a history essay requires piling up notes, and referencing every thing you write. What a horrible task! What a long time it took! I was finally able to hand in my first paper—a B+. Not too bad for a first effort, I thought. I did get better at it and finished the course in only eight months. Later, I returned to Simon Fraser University and took courses with firm deadlines. Not that I didn’t procrastinate—I did, often—but with a date circled on the calendar, I always finished my courses in the required thirteen weeks. (192 words; written by Brad Hyde in April, 2000. Revised in March, 2005)


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