What Is Parallelism?

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Parallelism is a device in which the same words and similar phrases  are repeated in close proximity to each other, often with an identical meter. The construction may contain contrasting ideas in a parallel structure (this is also known as antithesis), or the parallelism may strengthen two similar ideas by combining them in the same structure.

Parallelism occurs most often in idioms, proverbs, and even advertising slogans and tag lines. These short phrases are rhetorically powerful and easy to remember, making them the perfect vehicle to convey a lasting impression.

How Do You Identify Parallelism in Writing?

Parallel structure occurs when a writer joins the same form of a subject or predicate together in a clause:

  • To live yet and not to experience life is tragic.
  • Mary led the group in singing, dancing, and having a grand old time.

Although both of these sentences contain parallel structure, only the first is also an example of parallelism. What’s key is the repetition of “live and “life.”

Examples of Parallelism

Parallelism Example 1. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” — Ben Franklin

Parallelism Example 2. “A different kind of company. A different kind of car” was the auto manufacturer Saturn’s slogan.

Parallelism Example 3. “A sandwich is a sandwich but a Manwich is a meal.”

Parallelism Example 4. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” — John F. Kennedy

Parallelism Example 5. Charles Dickens begins his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with this famous phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . .”

Parallelism Example 6. “One step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong as he first stepped on the moon.