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Faulty Parallelism

Faulty parallelism occurs when parts of a sentence that serve similar functions are not written with similar structures.
For example, the verbs in a sentence should have the same tense if the subject performs the actions simultaneously.

 

Note: For a sentence to be parallel, similar elements must be expressed in similar form.

 

Note: When two adjectives modify the same noun, they should have similar forms.
 
Example

The topology course was both rigorous and a challenge.

Since both rigorous and a challenge are modifying course, they should have the same form:

The topology course was both rigorous and challenging.

 

Note: When a series of clauses is listed, the verbs in each clause must have the same form.

 

Example

The interim Prime Minister is strong, compassionate, and wants to defeat the insurgency with a minimum of civilian casualties.

The adjectives strong and compassionate begin a series of adjectives modifying the Prime Minister. Hence, the verb clause wants to defeat . . . is out of balance. The sentence can be corrected by turning the verb clause into an adjective clause:

The interim Prime Minister is strong, compassionate, and determined to defeat the insurgency with a minimum of civilian casualties.

Notice that the clause determined to defeat . . . has much more structure and information than the single word modifiers strong and compassionate. Often, this imbalance in complexity can make a sentence stilted and the lesser adjectives will need to be subordinated:

The interim Prime Minister, who is strong and compassionate, wants to defeat the insurgency with a minimum of civilian casualties.

However, the first rewrite is natural and more powerful. We will discuss these structures in detail later.
 

 

Note: When a series of clauses is listed, the verbs in each clause must have the same form.

 

Example

During his trip to Europe, the President will discuss ways to stimulate trade, offer economic aid, and trying to forge a new coalition with moderate forces in Russia.

In this example, the first two verbs, discuss and offer, are active. But the third verb in the series, trying, is passive. The form of the verb should be active:

During his trip to Europe, the President will discuss ways to stimulate trade, offer economic aid, and try to forge a new coalition with moderate forces in Russia.

 
Note: When a series of clauses with different verbs is listed, make sure the verb in each clause is included.

 

Although this may seem obvious, this error of omission can be surprisingly subtle to detect.
 
Example

Your battlefield debriefing should include enemy troop strength and why you believe the objective is necessary.

Notice that the second clause is missing its verb. This forces the reader to assume that the writer just elected not to repeat the verb include. However, using the verb include in the second clause would be at best imprecise. The second clause would be more balanced and clearer with the verb explain:

Your battlefield debriefing should include enemy troop strength and explain why you believe the objective is necessary.

 

Note: When the first half of a sentence has a certain structure, the second half should preserve that structure.
Example

To acknowledge that one is an alcoholic is taking the first and hardest step to recovery.

The first half of the above sentence has an infinitive structure, to acknowledge, so the second half must have a similar structure:

To acknowledge that one is an alcoholic is to take the first and hardest step to recovery.

 
Note: To correct an unparallel structure, first try giving the similar terms the same structure. For instance, change an adjective and a noun to two adjectives. However, this can make the sentence awkward. In these cases, you may need to subordinate one term to another.

 

Example

He ranks as one of the top volleyball players in the country and is often solicited by clothing companies for his endorsement.

The first clause in this sentence uses the active verb ranks, and the second clause uses the passive verb solicited. The sentence can be made parallel by making the first clause passive:

He is ranked as one of the top volleyball players in the country and is often solicited by clothing companies for his endorsement.

However, this sentence is plodding. Let’s try making both clauses active:

He ranks as one of the top volleyball players in the country, and clothing companies often solicit him for his endorsement.

This sentence is both plodding and awkward. Instead of forcing a parallel structure here, let’s just subordinate the first clause to the second clause:

As one of the top volleyball players in the country, he is often solicited by clothing companies for his endorsement.

 

Note: Make sure the elements of correlative conjunctions are balanced.

 

Following are some common correlative conjunctions:
 
both . . . and . . .
either . . . or . . .
neither . . . nor . . .
not only . . . but also . . .
whether . . . or . . .
 
Example

Agreeing to modest cuts in health benefits is a tacit admission by the union leadership both of its decreased influence and the increased influence of workers.

Here, the prepositional phrase of its decreased influence and the adjective phrase increased influence of workers are not balanced. This can be corrected by placing the preposition of before the conjunction both:

Agreeing to modest cuts in health benefits is a tacit admission by the union leadership of both its decreased influence and the increased influence of workers.

 
Example

In criticizing the team, the coach was not only referring to the poor shooting but also to the numerous turnovers.

Here, the phrase referring to the poor shooting and the phrase to the numerous turnovers are not balanced. This can be corrected by moving the word referring before the word not:

In criticizing the team, the coach was referring not only to the poor shooting but also to the numerous turnovers.





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