Chapter 13 of Writers’ Choices: Grammar to Improve Style

Coordination: coordinating conjunctions (and, but, nor, for, yet, so) , & coordinating correlative conjunctions (both…and, either…or, neither…nor, not only…but also)

Parallelism:  for a series that involves more than 2 elements, usually more than one word elements–keep same syntax. (after the shouting, after the punching, after the knife throwing….)

Balance: similar to parallelism, a repetition of structures and words that helps the writer achieve coherence. (Before the V war, few Americans had heard of V. After the V war, few Americans have not heard of it.)

Punctuation for these: commas, dashes, word/phrase interruptions (and, above all, …) (and–despite…–blah). For coordinating conjunctions, punctuation is only needed in a series of three or more.

Rhetorical uses: Create focus with coordination & parallelism. Compare and contrast well with parallelism. Ellipsis can be used to omit words when using parallelism. Repetition can be good when using parallelism, to create a rhetorical effect. Listing in twos and threes, using parallelism, and coordination to combine 2 things into 1 to meet that 3 item limit. Sometimes it is effective to omit the last coordinating conjunction in a list to give off the effect that the list goes on, and to tighten the sentence.


Coordination- From Today Entertainment:  ” ‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm slams reality ‘idiots’ Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton”

“Whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated,” Jon reportedly told Elle UK magazine in an interview for their April issue, as excerpted by The Daily Mail.

This is from the entertainment news site of In the quote from Jon Hamm, the coordinate series are combined with the conjunction “or”, without the use of punctuation in between items. By leaving out the punctuation in the series, more emphasis is placed on the end of his sentence: “stupidity is certainly celebrated.” Also, by using the word whoever in the series alongside names of celebrities, he conveys that, to him, the celebrities are simply “whoever”–that they are of little importance. He also uses the rule of 3 when making his list, so to create a rhetorical effect.

Parallelism- From Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford U on June 12, 2005

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

First of all, Steve Jobs was a very motivating speaker as well as a very intelligent successful man. This is one of his most well-known speeches. He uses parallelism rhetorically when he lists three elements, set off from the sentence with dashes, complete with commas. By keeping each element the same structure, using the word “all” before each, he keeps the sentence focused and connects those three compliments–”external expectations”, “pride”, and “fear of embarrassment or failure”–coordinating them so the audience considers them equal things that–”fall away in the face of death.” This creates the effect he hopes to achieve. He also used the rule of 3, by combining two things into one with a coordinating conjunction, that is, “the fear of embarrassment” and fear of “failure.” This selection makes for a good quote, it is motivating, emphatic, and rhetorical.

Balance- From Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People.

He Who Can Do This Has The Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way.”

This is a title of one of Carnegie’s chapters in the book. All of his chapters are emphatic, and rhetorical. They all lure you in so you will be interested to read. Here, Carnegie uses balance rhetorically by placing two sentences side by side that convey his point with parallel structures. The structures are exactly the same, and only the last parts of the sentences are changed. This also helps to compare and contrast (using parallelism). The words “He” “Who” and “Can” are repeated. This chapter title is very effective in drawing you in–the very job of a title.

From a tweet by Wiz Khallifa @WIZDOM on March 14, 2012

#HowToKeepARelationship: Be honest. Without honesty there is no trust. Without trust there is no relationship.

I thought it might be interesting to look for these stylistic devices in tweets! Wiz is well-known for his attempt at motivational tweets. Often, they are motivating. Maybe because Wiz knows something about balance and parallelism. Wiz creates a rhetorical effect by using same structure in connecting his ideas. He uses repetition in his tweet with the word “without” and the phase “there is no.” He changes only the words he wants to emphasize: “honesty” “trust” and “relationship.” By repeating the word trust in the second sentence he also connects it to the first.

When scanning my letter to the QEP, I found that I used all three devices in my own writing.

“In my research I have found a possible solution to this problem that will benefit both students, as well as professors, in several ways—a solution that may bridge that sophomore gap, without significant changes to 1200 being necessary.”

In this sentence I used both coordination and repetition rhetorically. Rather than simply saying “students and professors,” I used “both” and “as well as,” to create a little more emphasis on the fact that there are individual benefits for students and individual benefits for professors. I thought this sentence may surprise my audience, who, may think low-stakes writing does more harm than good for professors by adding more to their workload.

“Overall, this writing to learn is “a way of helping students to become more active and self-aware learners” and “a way of helping teachers to gain more insight into students thinking and learning processes” (Caldwell & Sorcinelli 142).”

Here I chose two phrases from one of my sources that had parallel structures and combined them with a coordinating conjunction to create balance. The repetition of “a way of helping” shows that the two phrases offer equal benefits of writing to learn; one being for students, and one being for teachers. This sentence provides evidence for the claim I made in the first example of how low-stakes writing benefits both students as well as teachers.

“Students are often not given the chance to see the teacher’s expectations until it is too late, they already have the low grade, and their confidence in writing is lowered.”

I don’t include a whole lot of lists in my letter. I chose this one because the parallel structure is questionable. I used three subjects “it,” “they,” and “their.” They all perform the same syntactic function–but the examples in the book repeat the same subject rather than changing it. Is this faulty parallelism?

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