Parallelism is often used in writing to compare and contrast ideas. However, this can be tricky, especially if you need to choose to compare either individual terms or wordy descriptions. Placing the comparative (either/or, both/and) can be tricky. You can think of these comparatives as parentheses in mathematics: the words before your comparative apply to both the “either” phrase and the “or” phrase, but the words after the comparative apply only to the phrase it is a part of.
Consider the following:
However, this can be tricky, especially if you need to choose to either compare individual terms or contrast wordy descriptions.
However, this can be tricky, especially if you need to choose either to compare individual terms or to contrast wordy descriptions.
Since both halves require 1) the word “to” and 2) an infinitive verb about comparison, it is possible to have the “either” follow “compare.” However, neither “individual” nor “wordy” refers to both “terms” and “descriptions,” so “individual” must follow “either.” Since the two parallel phrases being compared are “individual words” and “wordy descriptions,” we want to ensure that they are the same “kind” of thing: