Using Parallelism in Your E-Learning Courses
In grammar, parallelism (also known as parallel construction or parallel structure) is using two or more similar words, phrases, or clauses to balance a sentence, paragraph, or even an e-learning course. Parallelism is a professional polish that can improve clarity and readability.
In an e-learning course, the two areas that need to be parallel (and where I find the most errors) are bulleted lists (sometimes called vertical lists) and screen titles.
For bulleted lists, this means that each item in the list should be structured the same way. You have some choices here, depending on your style guide. However, the key to this is that they are consistent! Let’s take a look at some ways to make your lists parallel and consistent.
If you choose to use complete sentences, use complete sentences for every bulleted item in the list.
If you choose to have the bulleted list complete the introductory sentence, make every item in the list complete the introductory sentence.
Make every item in your list start with the same type of word. For example, start the bullets with a verb, noun, or adjective.
To solve this problem in your course, go through every list, and make sure it is parallel. Rewrite the bullets as needed to create parallelism. This is actually a tedious job if there are a lot of lists and the lists weren’t parallel to begin with. Do this exercise one time, and you’ll not soon forget to make the lists parallel as you write them!
Screen titles are the parts of an online course where parallelism is often missed. I think this happens because in the storyboard phase the writer is thinking more about the content than what to call the screens, and in the editing phase the editor is looking more at the content than the screen name.
Here is an example of a grammar course with non-parallel screen titles. In this case two titles start with nouns (Capitalization and Parallelism), one starts with an article (The Punctuation Mark), and one starts with a verb (Using Styles Properly).
To solve this problem, create a naming convention before you even start writing the storyboards with examples of how the screen titles should be written. Then, don’t forget to edit the screen titles. I always go through every screen in the online version before I put my stamp of approval on it and read only the screen titles to make sure they are parallel. Here are a couple of options.
Now let’s see what you’ve learned. I have created some non-parallel items in this blog. Can you find them? I’ll send an E-Learning Uncovered book to the first person who identifies all of the non-parallel items. Just send me an email with what you find – email@example.com. Once I have a winner, I’ll point out the nonparallel items in a response.