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TIPS AND TRICKS

 


 

PARALLEL STRUCTURE

 



This guy always seems to be causing headaches. So what is parallel structure? It basically entails linking words, phrases, dependent clauses or sentences that perform the same function by using the same grammatical form. Parallel structure is extremely useful because it provides clarity, emphasis and rhythm. People also tend to remember sentences or quotes that are parallel in structure (for example, I came, I saw, I conquered). The issue that arises is knowing how to use it properly and how to notice when it hasn’t been done correctly. Faulty or false parallelism is usually what leads to that something-doesn't-seem-quite-right-with-this-sentence-but-I-can't-put-my-finger-on-it feeling.

 

 

FAULTY PARALLELISM

 

Faulty parallelism occurs when ideas performing the same grammatical function do not have the same grammatical form. The first item in the parallel structure sets the stage for the grammatical structure for the rest, and the following items should therefore match. If one or more do not, it is said to be faulty parallelism. This is especially common in a series but can also occur in nearly any kind of sentence construction.  Faulty parallelism can be corrected by making sure all related ideas share the same grammatical form.

  • That cat is evil, fat and doesn't smell very good.

This sentence exhibits faulty parallelism. The first two items are adjectives but the last is an independent clause.

  •  Revised: That cat is evil, fat and smelly.

 

Sometimes faulty parallelism is a bit harder to notice.

  •  The old, run-down school brought back memories of climbing the jungle gym, sliding through the halls on jello-covered sneakers and grossly sugar-infused snacks.

Even though all these items are nouns, the first two are gerunds.

  • Revised: The old, run-down school brought back memories of climbing the jungle gym, sliding through the halls on jello-covered sneakers and eating grossly sugar-infused snacks.

 

 

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

 

 

MIXING TENSES

 

The same tense should be used throughout a parallel structure. Either rewrite the sentence to use the same tense or separate the sentence according to tense.

  • The new chocolate factory would save money on shipping, increase nut production in the area and has proved its worthiness through its candy-coated business plan.
  • Revised: The new chocolate factory would save money on shipping and increase nut production in the area. The factory has also proved its worthiness through its candy-coated business plan.

 

 

MIXING VOICES

 

Stick to either the active or passive voice in a series.

  • Millions were shocked by Pauline's discovery of the gate to the Land of Imagine That, and the discovery was the first of its kind.
  • Revised: Pauline's discovery of the new gate to the Land of Imagine That was the first of its kind and shocked millions.

 

 

MIXING VERBALS

 

Verbals are verbs used in place of noun phrases or modifiers. The three types of verbals include:

  1. Infinitive (to + verb),
  2. Gerund (verb + ing),
  3. Participle (verb + ing, verb + ed, verb + en, verb + other past participle suffix)

 

You should not use different types of verbals in a parallel structure, even if they are performing the same grammatical function.

  • The general idea is to scream as loud as you can, run as fast as you can and eating as much as you can.
  • Revised: The general idea is to scream as loud as you can, to run as fast as you can and to play as hard as you can.

 

 

MIXING VERBALS AND NOMINALS

 

Nominals are nous derived from verbs. They usually end with -ance, - ence, -ion or -ment. Verbals and nominals should not be mixed in a parallel structure.

  • We decided going to Neverland ourselves and the execution of our master pirate plan there would be best.
  • Revised: We decided going to Neverland ourselves and executing our master pirate plan there would be best.

 

 

MIXING DIFFERENT TYPES OF NOUN CLAUSES

 

Two main types of noun clauses are wh-clauses (starting with who, what, where, when, whether or how), and that-clauses (starting with that). They should not be mixed in the same series.

  • Paulie Parrot decided on what sea-salt crackers were best and that pecking on peg-legs should be frowned upon.
  • Revised: Paulie Parrot decided that the Fisherman’s sea-salt crackers were best and that pecking on peg-legs should be frowned upon.

 

 

MIXING PREPOSITIONS

 

Mistakes in parallel structure often occur when prepositions are thrown into the mix. More often than not, two or more items will share the same preposition but another item will require a different one. When a word is wrongly linked to two or more words when its use is only grammatically correct with one, it is called a zeugma. An easy way to avoid this kind of mistake is making sure you repeat the preposition for each item unless they all use the same preposition.

  • He looked for the super-secret-do-not-push-me red button on the control panel, the roof and within the inner depths of his very soul.
  • Revised: He looked for the super-secret-do-not-push-me red button on the control panel, on the roof and within the inner depths of his very soul.

 

 

PAIRED JOINING TERMS

 

The joining terms either-or, neither-nor, both-and, not only-but also, where-there, as-so and if-then   must connect grammatically parallel sentence elements  .

  • He not only chased all the dragons from the lion’s lagoon, but he also drove away all the chinky chunkers.
  •  Revised: He not only chased all the dragons from the lion’s lagoon, but also drove away all the chinky chunkers.
  •  The squiggly squirrels decided both to run for Members of Parliament and went ahead with their plans for further world domination.
  • Revised: The squiggly squirrels decided both to run for Members of Parliament and to go ahead with their plans for further world domination.

 

 

MIXING CLAUSES OR PHRASES WITH SENTENCES

 

Complete sentences (i.e. independent clauses) should not be mixed with noun clauses or phrases in a parallel structure. This occurs especially in lists.

  • Several causes led up to the demise of the ruler:
  1.  His lack of manners;
  2. He was constantly eating peanut-butter sandwiches and thus was usually quite sticky;
  3. The kingdom’s lack of lollipop Sunday fun days.

The first and third items are noun clauses while the second is a complete sentence.

  • Revised: Several causes led up to the demise of the ruler:
  1. His lack of manners;
  2. The fact that he was usually quite sticky because of his constant eating of peanut-butter sandwiches;
  3. The kingdom’s lack of lollipop Sunday fun days.

 

 

USING THE SAME WORD IN TWO OR MORE DIFFERENT WAYS

 

  • He would go to work by intergalactic ferry by 6 a.m. Spooglefloogle planetary time.
  • Revised: He would take the intergalactic ferry to work by 6 a.m. Spooglefloogle planetary time.

 

 

MIXING WORDS WITH DIFFERENT LEVELS OF GENERALITY OR UNRELATED MEANINGS

 

Words in a parallel structure should all maintain the same level of generality.

  • The super-duper awesome whatsit is being marketed in Ottawa, Toronto and Ontario.

Ontario is much more general than Toronto or Ottawa.

  • Revised: The super-duper awesome whatsit is being marketed in Ottawa, Toronto and other cities in Ontario.

Similarly, words should belong to the same general category in terms of meaning.

  • Mr. Snuffles a mean, despicable and fat-bummed man.

Mean and despicable are personality traits, while fat-bummed is a physical attribute.

  • Revised: Mr. Snuffles a mean and despicable man. He is also fat-bummed.

 


 

PRACTICE

 


 

Correct any errors in parallel structure in the following sentences.

 

1. These leprechauns were colourful, trustworthy and surely going to lead us to their chocolaty golden stash.

Sample answer

 

2. Those looking for adventure should do the following:

    a. Jump at opportunity;

    b. Keeping a positive outlook;

    c. Being open-minded;

    d. Dance to the music of life

Sample answer

 

3. He either needs to suck it up and accept that the bear’s days on Broadway are numbered, or the bear needs to pick up better singing skills.

Sample answer

 

4. The water nymph spoke to them sweetly, softly and with a devilish look in her eye.

Sample answer

 

5. The frog fairy told them to have faith, croak loudly, and to ignore all those who try to demean them.

Sample answer

 

6. Not only was the day fun and exciting, but also very productive in terms of laugh output.

Sample answer

 

7. Boringland is overpopulated, but there aren't enough people in Funville.

Sample answer

 

8. The meal was to include tie-dye caramels, jelly beans and fun-flavoured candy.

Sample answer

 

9. The attack was planned by us, and we carried it out ourselves.

Sample answer

 

10. The warriors rampaged through the village of fools, the woods of secrets and over the hills of conspiracy.

Sample answer

 


 

USEFUL LINKS FROM THE LANGUAGE PORTAL OF CANADA

 


 

Parallelism in headings

Parallelism with corelative conjunctions

Paralellism with items in a series

Watch out for faulty parallelism

 


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 


 

Dundurn Press. The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997.

 

Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.

 

Flick, Jane and Celia Millward. Handbook for Writers. 3rd Canadian ed. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, Ltd., 1999.

 

Messenger, William E. et al. The Canadian Writer’s Handbook. 5th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2008.

 

Riley, Kathryn, et al. Revising Professional Writing in Science and Technology, Business, and the Social Sciences. Superior, Wisc.: Parlay Press, 1999.

 

The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. rev. and expanded. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

 


 

Created by: Diana Franz