In truth, the best presentation in either spoken or written forums will pay attention to structure. But when viewed through the perspective of simply conveying a message, spoken English is a bit more lax than written English.
That’s why effective technical writers pay attention to structure.
A common structural error found among inexperienced writers is the failure to maintain parallelism when using conjunctions. Conjunctions connect the ideas found in different clauses to create a larger, more complex idea embodied in a sentence. Different classifications of conjunctions perform the same function (making connections between ideas) but do so in different ways.
- Coordinating conjunctions signal a relationship of position between ideas. Examples include and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet.
- Subordinating conjunctions signal a relationship of dependency of one idea to another. Examples include after, although, because, before, if, since, unless, when, where.
- Correlative conjunctions signal a relationship between two ideas to form a more complex third idea. For this reason they always occur in pairs of either single words or phrases. Examples include both/and, either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also, and whether/or.
Some of these words are used as other parts of speech. For example, so is also an adverb, and for is also a preposition. Although all conjunctions can involve parallel structures, the conjunctions more often requiring parallel structure are the correlative conjunctions require attention to parallel structures most often.
Consider the example sentence in the graphic above. The correlative conjunction pair used here is both/and. To assure parallelism, the writer should look at the structure of each part connected by the correlative conjunction pair. In this case, machine design is connected with how to manufacture.
This structure is not parallel because machine design is a noun phrase and how to manufacture is an adverbial phrase. Although both phrases function as nouns, they are really different types of phrases and as such do not comprise a true parallel structure when connected with conjunctions. True parallel structures contain items identical in both appearance and function.
To revise, the writer has two options. The first option changes the noun phrase to an adverbial phrase. This procedure yields
Note that in both options the structure of each phrase connected with the conjunctions is identical in both appearance and function.
By respecting parallel structure when using conjunctions, writers use consistency to bring clarity and power to their writing. That makes writing more effective. And that in turn increases the professional image the reader associates both with the writer and the brands associated with the writer.
So maintain parallelism when using conjunctions. Better writing always makes a better presentation.