John Dixon, independent medical writer and trainer in scientific writing skills, provides a useful tip for medical writers who work in MedComms.

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Recorded 22 February 2019. Produced by

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Hi, I’m John Dixon, a trainer in scientific writing, and here’s a bite that I hope may help you with your writing.

Use parallelism to simplify lists and make them more memorable [NEXT SLIDE]

To define parallelism, let’s first consider a sentence that contains a list that is NOT in a parallel form.

So, Carbon fibre is light, has flexibility and possesses durable properties. The properties of carbon fibre are listed as an adjective … then a verb + noun … then a verb + adjective + noun. This is NOT in a parallel form.

But if we rewrite this as: Carbon fibre is light, flexible and durable. … then we have adjective, adjective, adjective. This IS in a parallel form. [NEXT SLIDE]


So we can define parallelism as:
Two or more elements in a sentence or list that have a related purpose, and are written in the same grammatical form
These elements may be words, phrases or clauses
In parallel form, items in a list can be easier to remember and can often be written using fewer words [NEXT SLIDE]

However, now consider this sentence:

Carbon fibre is light, has flexibility, possesses durable properties and can be manufactured in the UK. Now we know this is not in a parallel form.

But the last element of this list … “and can be manufactured in the UK” … is not a physical property of carbon fibre and not suited to a parallel construction in the same way as the other elements, so … keep this last piece of information written as it is…

Carbon fibre is light, flexible, durable and can be manufactured in the UK. [NEXT SLIDE]

So if an element in a sentence or list is not related to other elements, it is best not to try and write it in a parallel form. Indeed it may be difficult to write in a parallel form and sound odd. [NEXT SLIDE]

Let’s take some important healthcare advice.

We advise you to eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise and keep your drinking within sensible limits.

This is not in a parallel form, but we want to make this important advice memorable. So let’s rewrite it using parallelism. [NEXT SLIDE]

We advise you to eat healthily, exercise regularly and drink sensibly. The three elements of the list are now all adverbs, in parallel form … and hopefully a little easier to remember!

I hope that’s helpful. For more bites to help your writing, visit

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[For the avoidance of doubt: this video is intended to be freely accessible to all. Please feel free to share and use however you like. Cheers Peter Llewellyn, Director NetworkPharma Ltd and Founder of the MedComms Networking Community activity at]