|

Line Editing for Parallelism

Line editing for parallelism sometimes requires being a line editor detective—finding the sentence-level issues to take a manuscript to the next level.

Editing Detective: Line Editing for Parallelism

As a line editor, sometimes the problems I catch are obvious (“Roy laghed at the joke”) but sometimes they’re not. Sometimes being a line editor is a little like being a detective, trying to figure out what’s going wrong in a sentence. Those are my favorite kinds of problems.

One of those subtle things that can go wrong at the sentence level and that I have to track down is parallelism. Parallelism, simply put, is the repetition of a grammatical structure: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Pronoun + verb, pronoun + verb, pronoun + verb. This sentence would not be improved by adding other words: “I came, I looked around at things, then I conquered the place.”

Intermediate Line Editing for Fiction to learn line editing for parallelism.

Creating parallelism in a sentence can make an author’s prose sound smoother. Meaning (and even emotion) is created through the repetition of form. The reader sees how the ideas are connected.

Here’s an example of a sentence that is begging for parallelism:

James sat astride his chestnut horse, glaring at the scene of carnage, blood and fire and death.

Using the principle of parallelism we could edit that to:

James sat astride his chestnut horse, glaring at the scene of carnage and blood, fire and death.

Here’s another:

They found Stephen kneeling by the new cairn he’d built, not praying before it as the Sige sometimes prayed to their ancestors, but regarding it, as if deciding whether it were appropriately completed. Not too high and not too elaborate—there was no need to elevate a coward. But it could not be too low and haphazard, to insult a forebear.

This could be:

They found Stephen kneeling by the new cairn he’d built, not praying before it as the Sige sometimes prayed to their ancestors, but regarding it, as if deciding whether it were appropriately completed. Not too high and not too elaborate, to elevate a coward. But not too low and too haphazard, to insult a forebear.

And here’s one that stumped me for a bit because I knew something was wrong but didn’t spot the parallelism problem right away:

Washing my hands at the sink, trying to avoid getting my cast wet, I saw in the mirror that my skin seemed to both sag and stretch: to have sagged into new wrinkles yet stretched tight over bones.

Then I came up with:

Washing my hands at the sink, trying to avoid getting my cast wet, I saw in the mirror that my skin seemed to both sag and stretch: to have sagged into new wrinkles yet to be stretched tight over bones.

But I admit I am still pondering the possibilities of that one!

Practice is the best way to develop your editing detective skills to master line editing for parallelism.


Tips for Editors & Writers

  • Using Partnerships to Expand Your Reach

    Using partnerships to expand your reach is a successful way to grow your freelance editing business with a high ROI. My Best Ideas for Using Partnerships to Expand Your Reach One way to broaden your marketing reach is to work with other freelancers to mutually market your work. In other words, you can create a…

    Read more…

  • Stages of Learning How to Edit

    As we learn the craft, we go through stages of learning how to edit—I’ve decided there are four stages. When you’re first learning how to edit, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the learning curve and to wonder when it would be realistic to start charging for your services. The answer is at Stage #3….

    Read more…

  • Query Letter Basics

    Both editors and authors need to learn query letter basics to help with the best possible chance of book publication. Query Letter Basics For Editors & Authors If your author-client is interested in trying to have their novel published by a traditional publisher, you may be asked to look at the author’s query letter (also…

    Read more…

Join the Club!

how to become an editor

New to story editing? Begin at the beginning.

Similar Posts