One strategy that is frequently used in speeches is the intentional use of parallelism. Parallelism is the use of repeating similar sounds, meanings, or grammar. You have already studied parallelism in sound when you learned about alliteration (e.g.The blind bat blundered off into the night). You can also have parallelism in the meaning of ideas or parallelism in grammatical structure. In this chapter, you will learn about how to use parallel structure in your speeches.
Stress can affect students personally, in their academic lives, and in their professional lives.
Subject + Verb + Object +
Adverb + Prepositional phrase + Prepositional phrase
Stress can affect students in their personal lives, in their academic lives, and in their professional lives.
Subject + Verb + Object +
Prepositional phrase + Prepositional phrase + Prepositional phrase
Types of Parallel Structure
The structure of a sentence is made up of many pieces. Any of these pieces can be used to create parallelism with a sentence. You can also create parallelism within a paragraph.
Over time, we can find joy, hope, and wonder.
The poverty, famine, and hardship found in the world can bring us low, but we can lift each other up.
We can give of our time, our expertise, our effort, and our hearts.
The solutions of tomorrow can be found in the classrooms of today, in the minds of the children of today.
The future of housing is undecided. The future of transportation is unknown. The future of infrastructure is in flux.
This new airport will bring thousands of new visitors to our area who will need transportation into our city, who will need hotels to stay at and conference spaces to meet at, who will need restaurants to eat at, and who will need experiences to fill their leisure time. The new visitors this airport will bring to our area will bring many opportunities for growth to our local economy.
There is no better time to make this change than now; there are no better people to make this change than us.
Why use parallel structure?
Parallel structure is used for a variety of reasons. It can be used to emphasize ideas, add rhythm, and coordinate ideas.
Because there is an element of repetition to parallelism, it can add emphasis to a point. For example, "We can recycle. We should recycle. We must recycle." (Subject + Auxilary verb + Verb) repeats a simple independent clause multiple times with increasing stress that draws listeners' attention to the idea of recycling. As speeches are given aloud and usually only once (not including recorded speeches), the repetition gives the audience multiple opportunities to understand and remember the idea. So, parallelism can help the listener notice the speaker's ideas through repetition.
The repetitive nature of parallel structure can also add rhythm to a speech. Because speeches are meant to be delivered aloud, how they sound is important to catching and retaining an audience's attention. Parallelism is one tool that can help keep an audience listening to your message. For example, "It is the honey bees that will save our planet because it is the honey bees that pollinate the wildernesses we enjoy visiting and that pollinate the crops we enjoy eating." has two examples of parallel structure: "It is the honey bees that will save our planet because it is the honey bees that ..." and "that pollinate the wildernesses we enjoy visiting and that pollinate the crops we enjoy eating". When you read this sentence aloud there is a noticeable pattern in the rhythm created by the stressed and unstressed words, the syllables, and so forth. This may be even more noticeable when looking at an example that lacks parallelism. Compare "My family enjoys hikes, to swim, and singing." and "My family enjoys hiking, swimming, and singing." While both are grammatically correct when you read them aloud, the second sentence with parallelism has a steady rhythm that makes listening to the message more pleasant as an audience.
By using similar grammar, you also put all of the ideas on a level field which can show how similar or united the ideas are. This coordinates the ideas through the use of similar grammar. The similarity of the grammar shows the similarity of the ideas. For example, "Adding green space can give our children a safe area to play, provide a space for community events, clean the air we breathe, and beautify our city." unifies all the different benefits of a proposed park into one coordinating list. Some people in the audience may care more about the children's play area while others may care more about the health benefits. However, by putting them in a parallel list all of the benefits are given even attention and their similarities--the fact that they are positive benefits from the park-- is shown more clearly. They coordinate or work together.
Compare and contrast the speech excerpts below. Discuss their use of parallelism with a partner. What effect does parallelism have on you as a reader?
Inaugural Address of The President [excerpt]
Vocabulary to Know
1. impel - push forward
2. preeminently - above others; supperior1
3. shrink - back away from; avoid
4. assert - say with confidence
frankness - plainness; directness in speaking without anything to confuse or hide the meaning
vigor - energy
midway - halfway; 1/2 through something
faculties - abilities
massed - collected or gathered together in a group
by Franklin D. Roosevelt (President of the United States 1933-1945)
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
by Dwight D. Eisenhower (President of the United States 1953-1961)
My fellow citizens:
The world and we have passed the midway point of a century of continuing challenge. We sense with all our faculties that forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history.
This fact defines the meaning of this day. We are summoned by this honored and historic ceremony to witness more than the act of one citizen swearing his oath of service, in the presence of God. We are called as a people to give testimony in the sight of the world to our faith that the future shall belong to the free.
Do these sentences have parallel structures? Rewrite the sentences that use parallel structure and underline the parts of the sentence that are parallel.
Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples [excerpt]
by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement, and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve, and mutual responsibility.
A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
Example: We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
Select the word or phrase that completes the sentence so that the sentence has a parallel structure.
Continuing Education department, dynamic, forests, wonderful, in his paintings of the people of Paris
1. Welcome everyone to John and Kylie's wedding on this __________, beautiful, cheerful day.
2. The future of the meat industry may depend on changing consumer preferences and __________ supply factors.
3. The lakes, mountains, and __________ of our region are important to our local culture and economy.
4. You can see the artist's enthusiasm in his paintings of streetscapes of Marseille and __________.
5. This project wouldn't have been possible without contributions from the Independent Study department, __________, and Conferences department.
Edit the punctuation in the sentences below.
1. We all enjoy playing soccer; basketball; and baseball.
2. We must discuss honor, We must discuss ethics, We must discuss responsibility.
3. Love can do many things heal many hurts and lift up many people.
4. Creativity has led to innovation in the marketplace. in the workplace and in the home.
5. I do not know if I have courage but I have the willingness to try to succeed where before I failed
Write sentences that use parallel structure. Write 2 sentences for each level of parallel structure.
Edit the following sentences to have correct parallel structure.
1. I would like to toast the bride, groom, and the guests.
2. We must dream big, plan together, work hard to save our planet.
3. This new product was taken the efforts of many teams and yearly to build.
4. As we graduate today, we thank our friends, loving family, and teachers.
5. If elected, I will work tirelessly to find solutions for these issues and diligent to bring your concerns to my fellow members of government.
6. These are trying times, These are difficulty days.
Reflect on your thinking. Consider these questions:
- What did you think about when you edited the sentences?
- How did you approach correcting the errors?
- Was your editing process effective (successful)?
- Was your editing process efficient (timely)?
- Would you change your editing process in any way next time?
Listen to the speech below. Then write 1-2 paragraphs critiquing the speaker's use of parallelism. Does Barbara Bush use parallelism? How or where does she use parallelism well? How or where could she use parallelism better?
The speech below was given by First Lady Barbara Bush at a graduation ceremony at Wellesley College on Jun 1, 1990. Wellesley College is a top-ranked liberal arts college and is a women's college.
Commencement Address at Wellesley College
by Barbara Pierce Bush (First Lady of the United States 1989-1993)
You have been asked to prepare for an in-class discussion on the effect of social media and technology on today's youth. Prepare a 1-2 minute comment to introduce and summarize your opinion on the topic. If applicable, include a call to action or ending question for your classmates to consider. Use at least one example each of parallelism at the word level, phrase level, and clause level.
After preparing, share your comment aloud with your class in person or on a digital discussion board. Listen to the comments shared by your classmates and respond as appropriate.
Write a 3 paragraph speech about transportation (pedestrians, bikes, public transit, cars, boats, planes, etc.) in your community that uses parallelism purposefully. Use at least one example each of parallelism at the word level, phrase level, and clause level. The audience of your speech is your local city council or a community meeting.
Review From Previous Units
There are many other ways that grammar can be used purposefully in speeches. As a spoken form of communication, you may purposefully use informal grammar such as phrasal verbs and idioms to connect with an audience of common people. You may also choose more formal verbs, vocabulary, or speech patterns to connect with an audience of academics or professionals. You may choose to use a specific type of sentence for a section of your speech or a mix of sentence types throughout your speech. These grammar strategies from the previous units may also be used for speeches.
Rewrite the speech excerpts below. If the expert is formal, then rewrite it to be more informal. If the excerpt is informal, then rewrite it to be more formal.
1. Abolition Speech [excerpt]
by William Wilberforce
When I consider the magnitude of the subject which I am to bring before the House -- a subject, in which the interests, not of this country, nor of Europe alone, but of the whole world, and of posterity, are involved; and when I think, at the same time, on the weakness of the advocate who has undertaken this great cause--when these reflections press upon my mind, it is impossible for me not to feel both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy of such a talk.
2. Remarks by President Biden at the National Association of Counties (NAC) Conference [excerpt]
by President Joseph Biden
But what I learned early on: If you’re in the county, you got to go through someone else to get help. You got to go to the governor. You got to go to your state legislator. You got to go to the state senators. And guess what? I stopped that. (Laughter and applause.) No kidding.
Because I’m telling you — you know, one of the things that we expect people to do is we think that people are, like us, very familiar with all the detail of — (using a handheld microphone) — is this working? — very familiar with all the detail of how government works. They don’t know whether there’s a pothole in their — in their front — in their side street, whether it’s a county, a state, a — they don’t know who’s responsible.
And they come to the county all the time — at least that was my experience in New Castle County. And when you don’t have the same funding that you have for these other programs, you find out — you know, it’s just hard.
And one of the things that I found out early on was: We always did better when there was direct funding for the things that related to the county.
The speech below was made at a time when long complex sentences were commonly used in formal speaking and writing. Rewrite the final paragraph of the speech to be more suited to a modern audience. Use a variety of sentence types that would be understandable to a modern audience.
This speech was given at the funeral of an Irishman who rebelled against England when England ruled Ireland. This speech was a major inspiration for the Irish independence movement in the 1900s. The most famous part of this speech is the final paragraph shown below.
Graveside Oration at the Funeral of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa [excerpt]
by Patrick Pearse
In a closer spiritual communion with him now than ever before, or perhaps ever again; in spiritual communion with those of his day, living and dead, who suffered with him in English prisons; in communion of spirit, too, with our own dear comrades who suffer in English prisons to-day; and speaking on their behalf as well as on our own, we pledge to Ireland our love, and we pledge to English rule in Ireland our hate. This is a place of peace, sacred to the dead, where men should speak with all charity and with all restraint; but I hold it a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression – and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them. Our foes are strong and wise and wary; but, strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God, who ripens in the hearts of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation. And the seeds sown by the young men of ’65 and ’67 are coming to their miraculous ripening today. Rulers and Defenders of Realms had need to be wary if they would guard against such processes. Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools!– they have left us our Fenian dead; and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.’