Parallelism and Balance

The difference between parallelism and balance is that in the former the elements involved must stand in an identical grammatical relationship to the same word or construction. Balanced words or constructions, however, do not have to be parallel (though they can be). Thus in the sentence above by Defoe the six clauses are separate and independent, not related to anything.

But parallelism and balance often go hand in hand, and nothing prevents the same constructions from being both parallel and balanced, if they are performing an identical grammatical function, are in the same form, and roughly equal in length. Here are two examples:

As for me, ! frankly cleave to the Greeks and not to the Indians, and I aspire to be a rational animal rather than a pure spirit.

George Santayana

The sentence balances two coordinated clauses of similar structure and length. Within the clause, the prepositional phrases "to the Greeks and not to the Indians" are parallel and antithetical. In the second clause "a rational animal rather than a pure spirit" is a parallel construction, and balance (in this case antithesis) is provided by playing "rational animal" against "pure spirit."

Most people, of course, made no distinction between a Communist—who believed in nothing but government—and such philosophical anarchists as Vanzetti—who believed in no government at all. Phil Strong

"A communist" and "such philosophical anarchists as Vanzetti" are parallel objects of "between," though the second is too much longer than the first to constitute a balance. However, balance does occur in the two "who" clauses, though these are not parallel because they modify different nouns.

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