In Praxis Writing, you’ll be asked to catch and correct written errors. Grammar errors on the Praxis are easy to spot and change—rules for things like subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, and so on are usually pretty cut and dry.
Correcting writing style is a little harder. Writing in a “good” style is not as simple as just knowing the rules… sometimes. Fortunately, one of the most common style mistakes in Praxis Core Writing tasks is rule-based.
Parallelism comes up pretty often in Praxis Core Writing, and there are clear rules for finding and correcting parallel structure errors. Before I get to those rules let’s see if you can intuitively sense this kind of writing problem. Look at the two almost-identical sentences below. Can you tell which sentence is better, and which one seems “wrong”?
A) My favorite holiday activities are cooking good food, visiting with family, and traveling.
B) My favorite holiday activities are cooking good food, to visit with family, and traveling.
You probably noticed that sentence (A) just seems better. But if you didn’t spot that, try reading both sentences out loud. You’ll hear and probably even feel the difference!
In (A), all of the verb forms in the list of activities match. Cooking, visiting, and traveling, are all gerunds, words that end in –ing. In sentence (B) on the other hand, an infinitive (to + the base form of the verb) is mixed in with the two gerunds. Cooking, to visit, and traveling is a less consistently set of verbs.
Let’s look at a couple more sentence pairs. This time, I’ll make the sentence pairs a little more complex and academic—more Praxis-like, if you will.
A) Unlike many mammals, baby guinea pigs are born not only with a full coat of fur, but also having a complete set of teeth and the ability to eat solid food.
B) Unlike many mammals, baby guinea pigs are born not only with a full coat of fur, but also with a complete set of teeth and the ability to eat solid food.
A) In the first few United States presidential elections, it appeared that the population preferred voting for candidates from Virginia over a selection of candidates from other states and territories.
B) In the first few United States presidential elections, it appeared that the population preferred voting for candidates from Virginia to voting for candidates from other states and territories.
With careful reading (and perhaps reading aloud), you should be able to see that (B) is the better sentence in both pairs; (A) lacks parallel structure in both cases.
By now, you’ve probably started to notice the patterns that indicate correct or incorrect parallelism. These patterns point to the rules for finding and correcting parallel structure mistakes on the Praxis Core.
This means that, on the Praxis, you should look for the following common conjunction words:
- Coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. (Remember this set of words with the acronym FANBOYS.)
- Correlative conjunctions: both…and; not only…but also; not…but; either…or; neither…nor; whether…or; as…as (Note that correlative conjunctions appear in pairs, but do not appear right next to each other in sentences.)
You should also look for than, other comparison words similar to than.
- Comparison words:
- than: I’d rather watch this movie than that movie.
- over & to: He prefers eating eggs to eating fish. OR He prefers eating eggs over eating fish.
- instead of: She went out with her friends instead of staying at home.
- compared to: The Praxis Core is easy compared to the Praxis II.
- as opposed to: They are people who like to do things as opposed to people who just like to talk.
Parallel structure errors usually involve verb-related inconsistencies.
So be on the lookout for mistakes like these:
- Two different verb forms: Over summer vacation, I read comic books and liked to watch TV.
- Two different forms of action nouns (nouns derived form verbs): My summer activities consisted of reading comic books lots of television watched.
- Verb phrase mismatched with a noun phrase: During summer break, I like to watch TV and comic book reading.
In short, watch out for conjunctions, comparisons, and verbs. You should especially watch out for sentences with coordinating conjunctions and lists of activities. Praxis Core Writing especially loves to place parallel structure errors in these kinds of sentences.
The importance of parallel structure on the Praxis may seem surprising, especially if you don’t do a lot of writing. Parallelism is much more forgivable in speaking than in writing, because spoken English is simpler and less formal. But having good parallel structure can make both your speech and writing clearer more impressive. As a teacher, your students will look to you as an example when you write or speak. Knowing parallel structure will help you lead by example… and help you get your target score on Praxis Core Writing.