Hello Write Brainers!
If you’re familiar with my background (and you should be if you’ve read my profile page or kept up with my Write Brained series), you know I didn’t get my writing passion through sales and marketing copy. I’m a creative writer. I went to school for creative writing and, in the long run, that’s what I love to do.
Creative writing fits quite nicely in with copywriting, though, so it’s not like I’m completely out of my element here. In fact, quite the contrary. Many of the techniques I’ve developed through creative writing only improves my copy. That’s why I’m starting a series-within-a-series. The Creative Corner, as I’ve decided to call it, outlines some of the writing techniques or conventions I’ve learned and how they can be applied to copywriting.
Today’s writing technique is parallel form.
What is parallel form?
Parallel form, otherwise known as parallel structure, is actually a common convention for proper writing across the board. The idea is uniformity. Words or phrases should have the same voice or structure in order to emphasize that they are equally important. The Owl at Purdue has an excellent article if you want more information.
Parallel: In her spare time, Mary likes to write her book, play Skyrim, and bake delicious pumpkin-based goods.
Non-Parallel: In her spare time, Mary likes to write her book, play Skyrim, and she bakes delicious pumpkin-based goods.
As you can tell, removing the parallel structure makes the phrase read extremely awkwardly (which is why it’s not just a creative writing convention–it’s a good person convention). But there are ways to take parallel form and make it “creative writing” rather than just “proper writing.”
Parallel form in a creative sense.
Let’s remove the context of uniform sentences and turn it into uniform paragraphs. One reason I call it “parallel form” and not “parallel structure” is because you can take this concept and apply it to a bigger picture. When you write a paragraph in parallel structure, it looks something like this:
It was Labor Day weekend. Mary had a big copywriting project ahead of her. Mary also had a big camping trip waiting just on the other side of Friday. She had an important decision to make: work or play? Or maybe work and play. Maybe that remote cabin in the middle of the woods had Internet, or at least a desk where she could write the old fashioned way.
Do you notice the parallel form? The second and third sentences are written in a very similar format and use the same language. “Big copywriting project” is parallel to “big camping trip.” Additionally, the phrases “work or play” and “work and play” have the same sort of technique. The parallel form in this paragraph accomplishes two things: it points out how equally weighted both ideas are as well as makes the entire thing a little bit more memorable. Parallel form, whether we notice it or not, stands out. Your reader is more likely to remember the phrase because the form is repeated. Additionally, it makes the writing easier and more exciting to read.
Saying “Mary had a copywriting project and a camping trip this weekend” just isn’t as exciting.
Why use parallel form for copywriting?
The reasons you should use parallel form in copywriting are pretty much the same as why you would use it in creative writing: it demonstrates equal importance between ideas, serves as a mnemonic device to help your readers remember your writing, and makes your copy more exciting and interesting to read.
One place specifically parallel form may work best for copywriting is in the benefits. If you list the benefits in a creative style where you utilize parallel form, you are doing exactly what you’re expected to: making them exciting, memorable, and important.
Next time you find yourself writing some awesome marketing copy, spice things up with a little parallel form. Test it out, see what you think, and let me know how it goes!