etymology: to arrange together (syn
+ tassein --which is also the root of "tactics")
definition: the order or arrangement of words
in a sentence
Authors of this page are Erin Tatum (top),
Jessica Collins and Mary Morell (middle), and Jess Peterson and
Bailey Hudson (bottom middle and right). (Mr.
Stover is on the bottom left.)
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Parallelism. "Similarity of structure in a pair
or series of related words, phrases, or clauses" (Corbett
428). In other words, equivalent items (those joined by coordinate
conjunctions) must be placed in comparable grammatical structures.
Parallel items are joined by coordinate conjunctions (especially
and, or, nor) and correlative conjunctions
(either / or, neither / nor, not only / but also
- She went to the grocery store, post office, and gas station.
- Either you will turn in the essay on time, or you will suffer
a significant penalty.
- "We the people of the United States, in order to form
a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity,
provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States
of America." --Constitution of the United States
Faulty parallelism. If parallelism is ignored, the grammar
and coherence of the clause is ruined.
- She believed in democracy, she worked hard for the candidate
of her choice, and was ecstatic when he was elected.
- Not only could Henry tune a normal piano but also repair
- The cat and the large, complex amoeba went for a walk through
Isocolon. An isocolon exists when parallel structures
have the same number of words and sometimes even of syllables.
- "His purpose was to impress the ignorant, to perplex
the dubious, and to confound the scrupulous" (Corbett 429).
- ". . . but what else can one do when he is alone in
a jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts
and pray long prayers?" --Martin Luther King, Jr. "Letter
from Birmingham Jail"
- A good student questions his teachers, studies his books,
and learns his lessons.
Climax. A climax in structure exists when the arrangement
of parallel words, phrases, or clauses is in an order of increasing
- "Renounce my love, my life, myself--and you. --Alexander
Pope, "Eloisa to Abelard"
- ". . . we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our
fortunes, and our sacred honor." --Declaration of Independence
- The industrialist made money, friends, and peace with himself.
Antithesis. "The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas,
often in parallel structure" (Corbett 429). Conjunctions
that express antithesis include but, yet, and while.
- I offered to help, but he refused my assistance.
- The prodigal robs his heir; the miser robs himself.
- ". . . ask not what your country can do for you; ask
what you can do for your country." --John F. Kennedy, "Inaugural
- " That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for
mankind." --Neil Armstrong
Antithesis can occur when the wording contrasts, when the sense
of the statement contrasts, or when both contrast.
- Contrasting wording: Let the rich give to the poor.
- Contrasting sense: I helped him gain a balance in this world,
but he pushed me down in return.
- Contrasting wording and sense: "Those who have been
left out, we will try to bring in. Those left behind, we will
help to catch up." --Richard M. Nixon, "Inaugural Address"
Anaphora. "Repetition of the same word or group
of words at the beginnings of successive clauses" (Corbett
- "In every cry of every man, / In every Infant's cry
of fear, / In every voice, in every ban, / The mind-forged manacles
I hear." --William Blake, "London"
- "So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California."
--Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream"
Antimetabole. "Repetition of words, in successive
clauses, in reverse grammatical order" (Corbett 442).
- "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall
see how a slave was made a man." --Narrative of the Life
of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
Chiasmus. "Reversal of grammatical structures in
successive phrases or clauses " (but without the repetition
of words) (Corbett 443).
- "By day the frolic, and the dance by night." --Samuel
Johnson, "The Vanity of Human Wishes"
Polyptoton. "Repetition of words from the same
root" of or the same word used as a different part of speech
- "Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration
finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove" --William
Shakespeare, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds"
- "Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we
have to fear is fear itself." --Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
"First Inaugural Address"
Polysyndeton. Repetition of conjunctions.
- "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon
the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face
of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was
light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided
the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and
the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning
were the first day." --Genesis 1:1-5
Anastrophe or inversion. The inversion of natural
- "Once upon a midnight dreary . . ." --Edgar Allen
Poe, "The Raven"
- "United, there is little we cannot do in a host of co-operative
ventures. Divided, there is little we can do . . ." --John
F. Kennedy, "Inaugural Address"
Apposition. Placing side by side two nouns, the second
of which serves as an explanation of the first.
- The bear, a massive black object, frightened the small children.
- I ran from the woman, a wrinkled stranger.
Asyndeton. Omission of conjunctions between a series
of related clauses.
- "I came, I saw, I conquered." --Julius Caesar
- The elephants charged, the horses scattered, the Big Top
tent fell down.
Ellipsis. Deliberate omission of a word or words implied
- The man lost three teeth, the woman two.
- I read Shakespeare, you Agatha Christie.
Parenthesis. Insertion of some verbal unit in a position
that interrupts the normal flow of the sentence.
- One day in class we got off the subject (as often happens
with over-worked, sleep-deprived seniors) and began to discuss
the literature of Dr. Seuss.
- Grades (which should be abolished) are detrimental to the
health and sanity of students.
Grammatical types. Sentences are divided into four grammatical
Simple sentence--one independent clause.
Complex sentence--one independent and one or more dependent
- After the dog barks, it goes to sleep.
Compound sentence--two or more independent clauses
- The dog barks, and then it goes to sleep.
Compound-complex sentence--two or more independent
and one or more dependent clauses.
- After the dog barks, it goes to sleep, and then it wakes
Loose and periodic sentences. In The
Elements of Style, William Strunk and E. B. White counsel
that we should avoid "a succession of loose sentences."
"This rule refers especially to loose sentences of a particular
type: those consisting of two clauses, the second introduced by
a conjunction or relative" (25). Here is part of the example
the authors employ to illustrate the point:
- "The third concert of the subscription series was given
last evening, and a large audience was in attendance. Mr. Edward
Appleton was the soloist, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra furnished
the instrumental music" (25).
A periodic sentence, on the other hand, is one in which the
most important matter arrives at the end. Strunk and White note,
"The effectiveness of the periodic sentence arises from the
prominence it gives to the main statement" (33). Here is
one sentence they offer to exemplify the point:
- "With these hopes and in this belief I would urge you,
laying aside all hindrance, thrusting away all private aims,
to devote yourself unswervingly and unflinchingly to the vigorous
and successful prosecution of this war" (33).
Rhetorical question. A question that conveys a point
rather than expects an answer.
- "How many roads must a man walk down before you can
call him a man?" --Bob Dylan
- "If we live in the nineteenth century, why should we
not enjoy the advantages which the nineteenth century offers?
Why should our life be in any respect provincial? If we will
read newspapers, why not skip the gossip of Boston and take the
best newspaper in the world at once?" --Henry David Thoreau,
Sentence openers. One way to provide variety in our
writing is to experiment with the following openers (Corbett 422).
Expletive (both exclamatory and grammatical)
- Wow, that was amazing!
- It is true that I enjoy learning this material.
Adverb (single word or clause)
- First, John killed Luke.
- When the ship arrived safely, the passengers lept ashore.
- On the other hand, John may have known all along.
- By the way, John didn't cry.
- After the game we went home.
- To be certain, he pondered a moment before making his decision.
- Tired but happy, the old man crossed the sea.
- The ship having arrived safely, the passengers lept ashore.
- Gone was the wind that had brought us here.
- Tired is he who faithfully does all his work.
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