Ben Roethlisberger has to be the happiest guy in the world. He's tall, good-looking, rich, and talented. He owns two Super Bowl rings and a limitless future. So, what do you suppose he has on his "To Do" list for today? How about something like this:
Ben's To Do List - 2-3-09
1) Shower, shave, admire self in mirror.
2) Choice of expensive jeans and boots.
3) Don't forget to bring a pocketful of "Sharpies" for autographs.
4) Should I call my agent?
5) Remember - Hide the new Harley.
6) New beaver coat for the parade?
7 Eating brunch with the new lady would be nice (Where could I possibly go?)
8) The parade! I hate it. I love it! (Are those people crazy?)
9) If I ever have to sign another autograph, I'll puke.
10)Yeh, I think I'll buy stock in that company, Life is good!
OK, so that might not represent exactly what Ben's "To Do" list looks like today. He probably has some real important community service projects going on after the big, celebratory parade in downtown Pittsburgh. He probably has a 2pm appointment at the Blood Bank to help save a dying fan. He may be visiting Animal Rescue to adopt a poodle. Who knows?
Whatever Ben has planned for today, he needs to write on a list that is written in parallel structure so that we can more easily read it when his housekeeper leaks it to the media! What does that term, "parallel structure" mean? It simply means he needs to use the same grammatical constructions in his list. Then his list will look something like this:
Ben's To Do List - 2-3-09
1) Shower, shave, admire
2) Choose jeans, boots
3) Remember to bring "Sharpies"
4) Call agent
5) Hide the new Harley
6) Wear a nice, warm coat
7) Catch a quick brunch
8) Enjoy the parade and have patience with fans
9) Sign all autographs, especially for kids
10)Have broker investigate that little company, Life is good!
Notice that each item begins with an action verb, a good way to start a business list. But, he could have begun with an "ing" word, or a noun, or an adjective. He could have written full sentences or just fragments. In any event, he needed to use consistent and similar constructions.
Why must you and Ben use parallel structure in your writing? Simply put, it makes the reading easier for the reader! If you want to communicate with others, write and speak with the utmost simplicity and directness and with an appreciation and understanding of the audience and its limitations.
Don't believe me? That famous and revered management guru, Peter Drucker, said:
“It is the recipient who communicates. The so-called communicator, the person who emits the communication, does not communicate. He utters. Unless there is someone who hears, there is only noise.”
That means we must begin with a bias for the audience. If we begin that way, we will ask, "How can I make this easiest for the reader, not most difficult?" You can bet that every time Ben throws a pass, he tries to lay the football in the hands of his receiver so that the pass is easy to catch. Hey, Ben is so great he may even write so that his readers catch his messages with ease. He may use parallel structure. Then again....