Navigating parallel structures is somewhat common on the SAT® Writing test. Here are some basics to know so that you can recognize and edit these errors effectively.
Parallel structures function to display equal importance between ideas or items.
Types of Parallelism Questions
Lists require parallel structures. Pay attention to the patterns below:
John has been to Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota.
Sarah enjoys boating, fishing, and hiking.
Jess likes to dance, sing, and write.
These sentences display parallel structures because the items listed are all in the same form of either noun, gerund, or verb.
Here is an example of an error in listed parallelism that you would see on the Writing section of the SAT test:
Sarah enjoys boating, fishing, and to hike.
The last item, “to hike,” deviates from the list’s gerund form. To improve errors in parallelism for lists, be sure that the items listed are in the same grammatical form.
2) Conjunctions and Parts of Speech
Phrases also require parallel structures. Instead of matching items in a list, this rule requires that phrases on either side of a conjunction are parallel. You should know that a conjunction is a word that connects a phrase or clause (like “and,” “or,” “yet,” “so,” or “either”).
Here is are some examples of parallel phrases:
She paid the cashier and left the store.
These phrases follow the structure of verb, noun, “and” verb, noun. They are parallel.
She suggested they go biking as well as hiking.
These phrases follow the structure of verb, noun, “as well as” verb, noun. They are also parallel.
Here is an example of an error in parallelism that you would see on the Writing section of the SAT test:
The ocean is unpredictable and danger is to be found in it if you are not experienced.
This sentence is not parallel because the conjunction separates two phrases that are not in the same structure. Their structures are noun, verb, adjective, “and,” noun, verb, verb, preposition, pronoun.
Their structures should mirror. You can improve the parallelism of these phrases like this:
The ocean is unpredictable and danger is possible if you are not experienced.
Now both phrases (connected by the conjunction) follow the pattern of noun, verb, adjective.
The best way to solve sentences with errors in parallel phrasing is to label the words, as we have done for the example, as either a noun, verb, preposition, proposition, etc.
This can serve as an outline for the changes you need to make. Once you know the deviations one phrase makes from another, you can make the changes necessary for their structures to mirror.
You can practice parallelism questions in the Writing test using UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. Our practice exams, detailed question explanations, and performance tracking tools can provide you with experience for test day. Practice finding and resolving errors with parallel lists and parallel phrases to boost your Writing test scores!