As a speech coach, I introduce my clients to the importance of using parallel structure in speaking and writing.
Parallel structure, also known as parallelism, is the repetition of a grammatical structure within a sentence or multiple sentences. This technique can make your speech or writing more memorable and easier to understand.
When you write the copy for a presentation, or have your talking points on a PowerPoint slide, begin with a verb. Verbs inspire action and commitment.
You will learn how to:
- Connect with every audience
- Open every presentation with impact
- Craft memorable stories and examples
- Build credibility with specificity
Here are two historical examples of parallel structure that adds rhythm to the delivery.
“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” —John F. Kennedy
This famous quote is a great example of parallel structure using antithesis, a rhetorical device that uses contrasting ideas in parallel grammatical structures. The repetition of the structure “ask not… ask what” creates a memorable and powerful message.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” —Winston Churchill
In this example, Churchill uses parallel structure to emphasize the persistence and determination of the British people during World War II. The repetition of the phrase “we shall fight” in each sentence creates a sense of unity and strength.
Of course, this is my personal favorite. Growing up in England my parents would tell me about Winston Churchill getting on the radio, and with the power of his words, give the nation hope. At a very young age, I was being taught the power of words. It is my belief, that is why I became a speaker and now speech coach.
As you can see, using parallel structure can enhance the impact of your speech or writing by making it more memorable, easier to follow, and more aesthetically pleasing. When you repeat similar grammatical structures, you will emphasize important ideas.
As the great speaker Bill Gove taught me, the written word is for the eye, the spoken word is for the rhythm.
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