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Repetition vs. Parallelism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 22, 2023
Repetition involves reusing words or phrases for emphasis, while parallelism is the use of similar grammatical structures to convey related ideas.

Key Differences

Repetition and parallelism are both rhetorical devices used to emphasize and strengthen the writer's message in literature and speeches. Repetition involves the intentional reuse of words, phrases, or structures, often to create emphasis or to make a point more memorable. For example, Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech utilizes repetition with the recurring phrase "I have a dream" to emphasize his vision for equality.
Parallelism, on the other hand, involves structuring sentences or phrases in a similar manner to convey connected or contrasting ideas. By using parallel structures, the writer or speaker can make their message more harmonious and memorable. For instance, Julius Caesar's "I came, I saw, I conquered" demonstrates parallelism as each clause follows the same grammatical pattern.
While repetition focuses on echoing the same words or phrases, parallelism emphasizes balance and similarity in construction. An instance of repetition might be, "She believed, she persisted, she succeeded." A parallel structure, conversely, could be, "She reads quickly, writes clearly, and speaks loudly."
Both repetition and parallelism can be combined in powerful ways to enhance the clarity and resonance of a message. Consider the phrase, "To think accurately, to speak clearly, to act responsibly." Here, there's both repetition of the infinitive form ("to...") and parallelism in the structure of each action.
It's essential to recognize that while both devices can enrich communication, overuse of repetition might come off as redundant, and overcomplicated parallelism can make sentences harder to comprehend. Using these tools judiciously can enhance the rhythm, clarity, and impact of one's message.

Comparison Chart


Reusing words or phrases for emphasis.
Using similar grammatical structures to convey related ideas.


To emphasize, make memorable, or create rhythm.
To create balance, harmony, and clarity in conveying connected or contrasting ideas.

Grammatical Role

Can involve the repetition of any word, phrase, or structure.
Involves similar grammatical constructions in parts of a sentence, or across sentences.


"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
"She loves reading, writing, and singing."

Overuse Consequence

Might seem redundant or tedious.
Can become complicated or confusing.

Repetition and Parallelism Definitions


Regular and repeated use of a sound, word, or phrase.
The repetition of the word freedom emphasized its importance.


The use of similar grammatical structures in related phrases or clauses.
His speech displayed parallelism with the phrase not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need.


The recurrence of similar items or events.
The repetition of the chorus gave the song a catchy tune.


A balance within one or more sentences of similar phrases or clauses.
Parallelism in her essay made it pleasing to read.


Recurrence of an action or event.
The repetition of the pattern created a mesmerizing effect.


Conveying related ideas using a consistent grammatical form.
The list to read, to write, to learn shows parallelism.


The act of repeating something already said or done.
His speech had a lot of repetition of key points.


A method to make sentences clearer and more harmonious.
His use of parallelism enhanced the clarity of his message.


Echoing of the same elements or ideas.
The repetition in her poem highlighted her strong feelings.


A rhetorical device that aligns related ideas in a similar construction.
The parallelism of what you see, what you hear, what you know emphasized the interconnectedness of senses.


The act or process or an instance of repeating or being repeated.


The quality or condition of being parallel.


Correspondence or similarity.


Can repetition and parallelism be used together?

Yes, they can be combined for added emphasis and rhythm in communication.

Which device is about echoing the same words?

Repetition involves echoing the same words or phrases.

What's the main purpose of repetition in literature?

Repetition aims to emphasize, create rhythm, and make certain ideas memorable.

What's a simple example of parallelism?

"She reads books, writes poems, and sings songs."

Is repetition always about words?

No, repetition can involve sounds, words, phrases, or entire sentence structures.

How can parallelism aid in clarity?

Parallelism organizes related ideas in a consistent manner, making them easier to follow and understand.

Why might a speaker use repetition in a speech?

A speaker might use repetition to drive home a key point and make it resonate with listeners.

How does parallelism differ from simple repetition?

While repetition echoes words or phrases, parallelism focuses on balanced and similar grammatical structures.

Can overuse of parallelism be confusing?

Yes, excessive or complex parallel structures can be challenging to follow and may confuse the reader.

Can overusing repetition be problematic?

Yes, excessive repetition might come off as redundant or tedious.

What's a famous instance of parallelism in literature?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" from Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."

Does parallelism always involve similar words?

No, it's more about matching grammatical structures than using similar words.

Is parallelism only used in literature?

No, parallelism can be found in various forms of communication, from speeches to advertisements.

How does parallelism enhance a sentence?

Parallelism creates balance, harmony, and clarity, making ideas in a sentence seem interconnected.

Can repetition be used in music?

Absolutely, repetition in music can create catchy tunes and memorable lyrics.

Why might an author avoid parallelism?

Overcomplicated parallelism can make sentences harder to comprehend, so it should be used judiciously.

Can repetition be a form of emphasis?

Yes, one of the primary uses of repetition is to emphasize certain ideas or themes.

Can repetition be unintentional?

Yes, sometimes writers or speakers might unknowingly repeat words or ideas.

Is repetition more about content or structure?

Repetition is primarily about content, echoing specific words or ideas.

Do all languages utilize parallelism?

While the specifics might vary, many languages use forms of parallelism as a rhetorical device.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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