Examples of Parallel Structure in Technical Writing

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  • 0:01 Definition and Purpose
  • 0:29 Sentence Revision Example
  • 1:45 Technical Writing Example 1
  • 3:06 Technical Writing Example 2
  • 4:39 Technical Writing Example 3
  • 6:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Suzanne Sweat

Suzanne has taught 12 years in the NC Public School System and three years at Campbell University. She has a master's degree in English Education.

It is important to use parallel structure in order to create clear and concise technical writing. This video defines parallel structure, provides examples of correct and incorrect parallel structure, and shows how parallel structure might look in different forms of technical writing.

Definition and Purpose

Parallel structure is the use of the same grammatical form in a sentence, paragraph, or list when including more than one idea.

Parallel structure helps the reader understand that every presented idea is equal in importance, even though one idea may be placed before the other. It also makes your writing clearer and more concise, which makes it easier to read. Let's look at an example of a sentence to better understand how parallel structure improves writing.

Sentence Revision Example

Technical writing encompasses a wide variety of literature, including published articles, making outlines, to promotional material, and editing manuals.

This sentence does not reflect parallel structure. The problem with this sentence is that the list of ideas at the end of the sentence is written in different forms: the first is presented as a noun, the second as a gerund (or -ing ending), the third as a prepositional phrase, and the last as another gerund.

The lack of parallel structure causes a lack of rhythm in the sentence and creates confusion about the different ideas. Nouns should be paralleled by nouns, gerunds by gerunds, adjectives by adjectives, and so on.

Let's rewrite our example and make it parallel.

Technical writing encompasses a wide variety of literature, including published articles, outlines, promotional materials, and manuals.

Do you see what we did here? The list portion of the sentence was rewritten so that each idea is in the same form - a noun. This makes the flow of the sentence smooth and clear and suggests that all of the listed items or ideas are equally in importance.

Technical Writing Example 1

Now let's look at how parallel structure can create clarity in different forms of technical writing.

A common form of technical writing is known as end-user documentation. End-user documentation is a product manual designed for the end user, or customer, who purchased the product. Examples include the manuals that you receive when you purchase a cell phone, a washing machine, or a video game. The manual provides directions on how to use a product.

Let's say you've never played a video game in your life, and your family has just purchased a PlayStation 4.

When you turn on the console, you realize you must first log in to the console system before you can access any games. To understand how to log in, you must read the PS4 manual, an end-user document. The document says:

After logging in as a particular user, select the icon of that user, press the triangle button, and then select Automatic Login.

Notice that the directions contain three clear ideas, all written in the same form using present tense verbs: 'select,' 'press,' 'select.' The use of parallel structure makes the log-in instructions perfectly clear so that the user knows exactly what to do to log in. Your family is able to easily log in and play a video game.

Technical Writing Example 2

Now that you've had a taste of playing video games, let's say that you have decided that you could invent your own video game. To raise the money you need to develop your game, you decide to use another form of technical writing known as technical marketing communication. This form of technical writing can include promotional ads, brochures, newsletters, and presentations.

You create a presentation for the president of a famous gaming company. In your slide show, you list the reasons why your game should be created:

  • Includes one-of-a kind images.
  • Fun.
  • Contains non-stop action.
  • Not much money.
  • Unique quest.
  • To all ages.

Based on your presentation, would the president hire you? Probably not. The list you've created is full of unparallel construction. Sentences aren't the only grammatical structures that need to be written using parallel form. Before you deliver your slide show, you'll want to make sure that your lists or bullet points are also written using parallel structure.

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