Sentence Structures

Coordination, Subordination, Parallelism

 

One of our goals in college is to improve our writing, to make it more sophisticated. One step toward achieving this goal involves sentence structures. We want to write well-constructed compound-complex sentences so that we can express multiple layers of thought. If we write only simple sentences, our work will sound elementary. To achieve our desired level of sophistication, we can combine thoughts through coordination and/or subordination. We must be careful, however, that our combinations carry their intended weight.

We can establish equal emphasis between parts of a sentence by using coordinating conjunctions or suitable punctuation or both. Coordination gives equal emphasis to words and ideas as well as clauses.

Example: John and Mary rode their bikes and swam in the pool for exercise, and they were tired at the end of the day.

Coordination (equal emphasis):

         John and Mary

         rode their bikes and swam in the pool

         John and Mary rode their bikes and swam in the pool for exercise , and they were tired at the end of the day.

HOT TIP: You must be careful not to create comma splices and run-on sentences when you join independent clauses.

When you coordinate, you must assure balance by using the same form in each part. We call the repetition of grammatical structure parallelism. To be parallel all the items must match, must be in the same part of speech, and must follow the same form.

         Example: John and Mary rode their bikes and swimming in the pool. This sentence sounds strange because the verbs are not parallel.

Corrected: John and Mary rode their bikes and swam in the pool.

         Example: They like to ride, swim, and cooking together.

This sentence sounds strange because cooking has an ing, and ride and swim do not. These words are not parallel.

Corrected: They like to ride, swim, and cook together.

In some sentences, one idea depends on another. One condition or event may cause another; one event may come before another; one observation may explain another. Subordination establishes the dependence of one idea on another by shifting emphasis away from supporting elements so that major statements emerge clearly. You can subordinate single words, phrases, and clauses by using subordinating conjunctions (like after, because, if, since, when, although, unless, etc.) or by embedding words and ideas. Embedding compresses a great deal of information into a few words by establishing subordination.

Example: John and Mary exercised. They have bikes. They rode them. They swam in the pool. They got tired. The day ended.

Subordination:

         After riding their bikes and swimming in the pool for exercise, John and Mary were tired at the end of the day.

         John and Mary were tired at the end of the day because they had ridden their bikes and swum in the pool for exercise.

         John and Mary, after riding their bikes and swimming in the pool for exercise, were tired at the end of the day.

 

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