Practice academic writing skills 1: Parallelism

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Parallelism adds elegance to your writing:

Clumsy: They work with great care and effectively.
Elegant: They work carefully and effectively.

Clumsy: Making contacts is as important as to give a good presentation.
Elegant: Making contacts is as important as giving a good presentation.

Clumsy: We analyzed the extensive data, which was highly complex.
Elegant: We analyzed the extensive, highly complex data.

Clumsy: We hope to visit the site, so the measurements will be completed by the end of the month.
Elegant: We hope to visit the site and complete the measurements by the end of the month. (Note: drop the second “to”)

Parallelism is required by some grammar structures – see the examples in red. The dependent phrases in blue must take the same parallel form following the grammar words in red. They are equally dependent on the headword in green. So it’s: headwordgrammar worddependent phrasegrammar worddependent phrase.

  • not only A, but also B
    Error: I not only do research on A, but also on B. (verb with object, object only)
    Correct: I do research not only on A, but also on B. (two dependent objects)
  • Error: I do not only research, but also teach. (noun, verb)
    Correct: I not only do research, but also teach. (two dependent verbs)
  • neither A, nor B
    Error: Johnson’s research neither considered recent developments nor objections previously raised by his colleagues. (active verb phrase, phrase without an active verb)
    Correct: Johnson’s research considered neither recent developments nor objections previously raised by his colleagues. (two noun phrases dependent on “considered”)
  • both A and B
    Error: The project helps geoscience faculty stay up-to-date both with research and teaching methods. (with is misplaced)
    Correct: The project helps geoscience faculty stay up-to-date with both research and teaching methods. (two dependent objects)
  • A, B and (or) C
  • I look forward to A and B
  • In terms of A and B
  • more A and less B

There are more practice sentences here (link).


  1. Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, a scientist, and he made inventions.
  2. The ancient Greek scientist Archimedes discovered the principle of boyancy, devised formulas for calculating the areas of various geometric figures, and he is remembered as the inventor of the Archimedean screw.
  3. According to the principle of boyancy, a boat floats and baloons will rise because they weigh less than the water or air they displace.
  4. I look forward to both seeing and to talking to you soon.
  5. The members of the expedition were advised to work hard and against relying on luck.
  6. During the embargo, oil was extremely expensive and not at all easy to get.
  7. The givernment is considering banning imports of genetically modified food products and to lower tariffs on organcally grown foods.
  8. Intellectually and in terms of morality, the educational system is failing children in need.
  9. People may wear different clothes, but they still use them to express what they have got, the way that they believe or the amount of money they have.
  10. I arrived in Barcelona without knowing anyone and I could not understand any Spanish.

Phrases 1.-10. from Paula Maier, Teaching Academic Writing,  p.45, unpublished manuscript for KommUNIkation, LMU München, a teacher training project 2005-7 organized by Elena Gallo.

(This is a post on the Moodle Scientific Writing Forum I’m developing for the PROGRESS group at Uni Potsdam. Feel free to use if you like, let me know if the explanations click or fizzle.)


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