Writing Clear Sentences

Parallel Structure

Worksheet Objective:
To learn how to write sentences with parallel structure.

This worksheet is one of many worksheets that covers clear sentences; when you complete this one, move on to the next. Be sure to do the Writing Clear Sentences Quiz at the end of all the worksheets.

Parallel Structure

Your writing will be clearer if the ideas within each sentence are written in a similar way.  This is called parallel, or similar form.  For example, all verbs should be in the same tense and form.  To have parallel structure, use matching nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs when you write a list.

Not parallel:  The store is good for fruit, meat, and to buy cheese.
Parallel:         The store is good for fruit, meat, and cheese. (nouns)

Not parallel:  Doctors say I should run, swim, and go walking.
Parallel:         Doctors say I should run, swim, and walk. (same verb form)

Not parallel:  The meal was tasty, quick, and the food was good for you.
Parallel:         The meal was tasty, quick, and healthful. (adjectives)

Not parallel:  In the rain I drove slowly, carefully, and watch out for other drivers.
Parallel:         In the rain I drive slowly, carefully, and defensively.  (adverbs)

Not parallel:  The qualities I admire most in a man are honesty, courageous, and compassion.
Parallel:         The qualities I admire most in a man are honesty, courage, and compassion.

Can you find the error in this sentence?

Alexander Graham Bell was a painter, teacher, and he invented things.

In this sentence, two nouns describe Alexander Graham Bell; however, the third idea uses a verb, invented.  To give the sentence parallel structure, change the words he invented things to a noun.

Alexander Graham Bell was a painter, teacher, and inventor.

Here’s another example:

Pam likes water skiing, to swim, and sails.

The verbs don’t match; therefore, we need to change it to:

Pam likes water skiing, swimming, and sailing.  (all “ing” verbs)
Pam likes to water ski, to swim, and to sail.  (all “to” verbs)

Tip:  Be sure you don’t combine different parts of speech in a series.  Check that you have used all nouns, all verbs, all adjectives, or all adverbs. 

You try it:
Write P if the sentence has parallel structure.  Write NP is the sentence does not have parallel structure.

 1.  Eating the right foods will help you feel healthier, more attractive, and strongly.
 2.  Fruits, vegetables, and grains are an important part of a well-balanced diet.
 3.  They provide vitamins, minerals, and are low in fat.
 4.  Meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of zinc, iron, and B vitamins.
 5.  Fiber, which is good for digestion, is found in plant foods like beans, peas, and whole grain cereals.
 6.  To lose weight, eat smaller portions and limiting second helpings.
 7.  Eat slowly and be careful; be sure to chew your food well.


To check for parallel structure, you must first identify the compound elements.  Look for the conjunction and, but, or, or nor; then decide which words the conjunction joins.  After you’ve located the compound elements, check to be sure that the word forms are alike.

Remember you are looking for similarity in form, not meaning.  Journalist, lawyer, and engineering are related in meaning:  all deal with occupations.  However, the first two nouns refer to people, while the third refers to a career.  A parallel list would be journalist, lawyer, and engineer (all people) or journalism, law, and engineering (all careers).

What are the compound elements in the following sentence?  Which element is not parallel to the others?

Jo draws attention to herself by dyeing her hair lavender, wearing green fingernail polish, and she speaks with a fake French accent.

Now rewrite the sentence using parallel structure.

Did you change it to: Jo draws attention to herself by dyeing her hair lavender, wearing green fingernail polish, and speaking with a fake French accent?

Rewrite each sentence to create parallel structure.

  1. I spent the weekend working in the yard, painting a door, and to fix a cracked window.

  2. Regina said she would fix supper, set the table, and that she would clean up afterwards.

  3. That candidate has energy, concern, and she is honest.

  4. When Taro got home, he found mud on the carpet, scratch marks on the furniture, and having broken glass on the floor.

  5. Jo likes people who are kind, thoughtful, funny, and when they are rich.

  6. The fortuneteller told Ana that she would get a great job, that she would lose money, and she should move to another city.

  7. The workshop explained how to speak clearly, appearing skilled, and how to ask for a raise.

  8. When Felicia had the flu, she took aspirin, drank plenty of fluids, and she slept a lot.

  9. Long ago I discovered that I could relax by sipping a cup of hot tea or if I listened to soft music.

  10. One of life’s greatest sorrows is to have a child, to care for him lovingly as he grows, and then when you lose him to drugs.



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