Parallelism

What does it mean?

The balance between two or more similar words, phrases, or clauses is called parallelism in grammar.

Why is it important?

In order for the reader to understand what you are trying to say, your sentence should fit together and match each other. Lack of parallelism also makes what is being said sound very awkward, which is never a good thing if you are trying to sound smart for an essay.

Remember: Poor parallelism will most likely translate to your writing coming across as uneducated which is never a good thing.

Fortunately, most people have been taught to use fairly good parallelism when speaking, which often shows in their writing. The trick however, is finding faulty parallelism as some mistakes are harder to notice than others.

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When to use parallelism:

  • When two things are joined by a conjunction
  • With lists or series
  • When comparing
  • When two things are joined by a linking verb

To help get a better picture of parallelism here are some examples:

We spent our Saturday eating junk food, playing video games and we swam.

This sentence has poor parallelism due to how the verb in the sentence do not have the same tense. A better sentence would be:

We spent our Saturday eating junk food, playing video games and swimming.

The verb tenses now agree with each other which means we can now all be happy.

You can apply to the job by filling out this form or apply by telephone.

This is an example where it may seem grammatically correct at first glance, but after a further look you may see that it is in fact not.

You can apply to the job by filling out this form or you can apply by telephone.

In this case, the word can is needed in order for the verb tenses to agree with each other.

A trick to use when revising writing to help with parallelism is to look at the case of the first verb in the sentence and check to see if all the other verbs in the sentence agree with its tense. This is a good way of making sure that there are no sentences that may sound seem correct at first.

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In Summary: Parallelism is important because it makes a piece of writing flow as it should. If there is a lack of parallelism, then the reader may get frustrated or even deem the piece of writing as having a lack of credibility.

Bibliography:

“GRAMMAR.” English Grammar – Parallelism Rules and Definitions. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

Simmons, Robin L. “Parallel Structure.” Grammar Bytes! :: Parallel Structure. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

 

Word Choice

Everyone has experienced that moment where we are staring at a word document, digging deep in their minds searching for the RIGHT word. We have all been there! Word choice is present in every facet of our lives, whether it’s texting with friends or sending an email to your professor. Word choice always matters!

What is word choice? “Word choice refers to a writer’s selection of words as determined by a number of factors, including meaning (both denotative and connotative), specificity, level of diction, tone, and audience. Another term for word choice is diction. Word choice is an essential ingredient of style.” (writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/word-choice/)

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Key Elements:

  • Connotation and Denotation:
    • Connotation: The associated or secondary meaning of a word; the emotions a word evokes.
    • Example: A connotation of the word “home” may be “place of warmth and comfort.”
    • There can be negative connotation and positive connotation.
      • Illegal Alien: This has a very negative connotation, primarily because the words illegal and alien evoke negative feelings.
      • Undocumented Worker: This has a positive connotation because the term does not evoke any negative feelings.
    • The two terms above have the same meaning, yet evoke very different emotions.
    • Denotation : The literal or primary meaning of a word.
    • Example: The denotation of the word “home” is “the place where one lives permanently.”
      • Illegal Alien: Someone who is in the country illegally.
      • Undocumented Worker: Someone who is in the country illegally.

An interesting way to think about connotation and denotation is as a politician’s tool. Like a politician, you want to evoke certain emotions in your writing. A simple variation in word choice can have a vast impact on the emotions that the reader is feeling.

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  • Formality:
    • Formal vs. Informal: The formality of anything you say or write depends entirely upon your audience. If you are sending two emails of the same subject matter, one to your friend and one to your professor, these emails will look very different,
      • Formal: Formal english is commonly used in “serious” texts such as academic papers, official documents, etc.
      • Informal: Informal english is commonly used in conversation and other improvised means of communication.formal.png
  • Transition Words
    • Transition words are words that help you transition from one idea to another. They are easily the most under-appreciated element of word choice. The use of correct transition words can make the difference between an essay that flows very well, and an essay that is completely choppy and incoherent:
      • Examples: for example, for instance
      • Sequence: first, second, third, etc., next, then, following this, finally, consequently, subsequently, thus, therefore, hence
      • Addition: and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what’s more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)
      • Comparison: but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, by comparison, where, compared to, although, in contrast, although this may be true
      • Summary or conclusion: in brief, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said, hence, therefore, thus, consequently
      • Emphasis: definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, absolutely, positively, naturally, surprisingly, always, forever, never, emphatically, unquestionably, without a doubt, certainly, undeniably
      • Time: immediately, thereafter, soon, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first (second, etc.), next.
  • Repetition vs. Redundancy
    • Repetition is a very necessary element of word choice. It is unavoidable that in an essay you will find yourself needing to use key terms several times throughout the essay, and sometimes replacing these key terms with a synonym will weaken the argument. When used correctly, repetition will emphasize the point you are trying to make and remind the reader that you are still making your argument. When repetition is used correctly, it leads to a cohesive, fresh essay.
    • Redundancy is the result of repetition used incorrectly. When used incorrectly it leads to redundancy. If you find yourself repeating nouns or adjectives, it sends the message that you are trying to make a point over and over again which highly weakens your argument. The reader may see this as not cohesive.

Conclusion:

ALWAYS be cognizant of word choice! It will either make or break an essay. Use connotations of a word to your advantage because they are useful strategy to evoke emotions in your reader (especially without them knowing.) Make sure you use appropriate formality. Be aware of your transition words, they add to the flow of an essay and make it incredibly cohesive when used correctly. Repetition is okay, as long as you are not being redundant.

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Sources:

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/word-choice/

http://www.antimoon.com/how/formal-informal-english.htm

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/2/66/

 

Modifiers: What are they and how do they help me?

When your sentences are feeling down or your statements are falling flat, you should add some modifiers!

Don’t just let your thought be: The hinge creaked.

Add some life to your sentence with modifiers and say,

The rusty hinges proclaimed their unhappiness as they creaked loudly.

See how that sentence almost jumps right out of the page? Probably not. At this point you probably already use modifiers without even thinking about them, but lets properly define them just to be sure we all understand. Modifiers are just:

  • adjectives,
  • adverbs,
  • adverb clauses,
  • infinitive phrases,
  • participle phrases,
  • prepositional phrases,
  • absolute phrases, and
  • adjective clauses.

Basically, they are anything that adds detail to your sentence. The above added to a pizzasentence correctly will make your descriptions lush and interesting.

The keyword there was correctly. If added incorrectly, your sentence might become confusing, or not make sense at all. Take this for example:

To ensure mistakes are not made in your sentence structure, make sure you are using your modifiers in the right place.

To fix the above example with the molten cheese disaster, all you need to do is see what you are applying the modifier to. You are not covered in cheese, the pizza is; so be sure to put the modifier next to the pizza and not you.

Pretty straightforward, right?

You can add modifiers in pretty easily. No need to re-write boring paragraphs, just add some modifier spice, and BAM! your paragraph is 10 times more interesting than before!

If you are not sure if a sentence needs one or not, just think “Is this boring?” or even “it’s not quite boring but just lacking detail.”If so, put some modifiers in.

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Modifiers are not just good for papers and writing assignments, they are also useful to spot common grammatical issues like a hot cup of coffee. Now I’m sure we all know that it’s the coffee and not the cup that’s hot, but it’s still bad grammar.

They can also improve your storytelling, for social occasions. Nobody wants to hear about that time you ran away from a dog, but that time you sprinted away from a rabid dog, vaulting over fences in your attempts to escape. Well, that might garner a lot more attention!

You might not recognize them, but modifiers are everywhere, your hidden friends who make that book you have to read bearable, or that scientific journal you have to read completely unbearable. Maybe next time you’re reading something, keep an eye out for modifiers. Or maybe if you are bored enough to be looking for modifiers in a text, they really didn’t do a great job on them.

Just remember, commas can save lives…

But the real heroes are modifiers.

Making your writing interesting since forever.

Works Cited

“Problems with Modifiers.” Grammarly Handbook | Problems with Modifiers Grammar Rules. Grammarly Inc, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

https://www.grammarly.com/handbook/sentences/modifiers/3/problems-with-modifiers/

Simmons, Robin L. “The Modifier.” Grammar Bytes! :: The Modifier. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

http://chompchomp.com/terms/modifier.htm

Sonali. “Using Pictorial Representations To Teach Rules Of Grammar, Punctuation, And Word Usage.” Busy Teacher. N.p., 11 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

http://busyteacher.org/14773-pictorial-representations-teach-grammar.html

Wasko, WriteAtHome.com Brian. “Crazy English Memes.” Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

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