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Get to the Point!

Parallel Persuasion

By Theda C. Snyder

Persuasive communicators remember three things: writing well is harder than it looks, using words grammatically is important, and diction.

Is something off here?

Parallel: Having the Same Direction, Course, Nature or Tendency

Yes, it’s the lack of parallelism. After “writing” and “using,” your ear expects another gerund, a noun with an -ing ending derived from a verb. Another reason “diction” seems out of place is that it is too short, compared with the other phrases.

Parallelism is the use of repeated verbal constructions with the same grammatic structure, sound, meter or meaning. Parallelism makes your writing more readable and memorable. Ideas repeated in parallels are easier to grasp.

Parallelism is powerful and persuasive. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” would not be so striking had Charles Dickens written, “It was the best of times, but many people were not doing well.”

“Before the accident, his hobbies were dancing, dining and hikes” is an example of faulty parallelism. Instead, say, “Before the accident, his hobbies were dancing, dining and hiking.”

Even just two successive phrases that don’t have the same structure can sound awkward. “The plaintiff was driving and had the radio on” is not parallel. “The plaintiff was driving and listening to the radio” pairs the activities.

Use consistent versions of the same verb.  Don’t say, “A refers back to Z, and B refers to Y.” Decide which version is better, and stick with it. In general, the shorter form is better.

Persuasiveness

Perhaps the most famous modern use of parallelism to drive home a point is Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. He repeatedly introduced his ideas with “we cannot be satisfied” and then “I have a dream.”

One of those ideas was: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Pretty powerful stuff — and parallel.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Amazon.com. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at SnyderMediations.com and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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