Parallelism

Parallelism – also known as parallel structure – has nothing to do with our body structure, but it has plenty to do with sentence structure, particularly in relation to the balance of words or phrases in a sentence. Errors in parallelism is called faulty parallelism. When faulty parallelism occurs, words and phrases are incorrectly joined. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as and or or. Here are some examples:

Examples of faulty parallelism:

  1. He eats, drinks and will also watch television at the same time. (X)
    He eats, drinks and watches television at the same time. (√)
  2. Either you go home or you have to wait here. (X)
    Either you go home or wait here. (√).
  3. The CSI team prepared the report of the crime scene quickly, accurately and in a detailed manner. (X)
    The CSI team examined the report of the crime scene quickly, accurately and thoroughly. (√)

Identifying faulty parallelism:

With a keen eye, and sufficient knowledge in parallel structure, identifying errors in parallelism is easy. There are ways in which faulty parallelism could occur:

(a) In a series of three or more items in a sentence

Example 1:

  • They bought a pen, a notepad and ruler. (X)
    They bought a pen, a notepad and a ruler. (√) OR
    They bought a pen, notepad and ruler. (√)

In the above example, there are three items – pen, notepad and ruler. The article “a” is not properly placed.  To correct the problem, either include the article for all items or write it before the first item. The same rule applies if you wish to use prepositions and pronouns. See the following example:

Example 2:

  • His parents, cousins and his relatives all had a picnic by the beach last week. (X)
    His parents, his cousins and his relatives all had a picnic by the beach last week. (√) OR
    His
    parents, cousins and relatives all had a picnic by the beach last week. (√)

In the example above, the pronoun “his” should appear either in all items or in only one item.

(b) Gerunds and infinitives (to)

Examples:

  • There’s no point rushing and to drive home at peak hour. (X)
    There’s no point rushing and driving home at peak hour. (√)
  • Reading and to watch horror movies are some of his interests. (X)
    Reading and watching horror movies are some of his interests. (√)
  • He’s going up the stage to sing, dance and to show some magic. (X)
    He’s going up the stage to sing, to dance and to show some magic. (√)

(c) Adverb and adverb phrases

Examples:

  • The speaker spoke gently and in a polite manner. (X)
    The speaker spoke gently and politely. (√)
  • Our neighbour talked to us loudly and in an angry tone. (X)
    Our neighbour talked to us loudly and angrily. (√)
  • The officer attended to our requests professionally and with great efficiency. (X)
    The officer attended to our requests professionally and efficiently. (√)

(d) Comparative structures

Comparative structures come in pairs. For instance: the more… the better, the more… the easier, the younger… the more beautiful etc. Notice that the article the is in pairs, too. Look at the following errors and see how they are corrected.

Examples:

  • The more you practise, you’ll be better. (X)
    The more you practise, the better you’ll be. (√)

As you can see from this example, the structure needs to be changed a little. Here are other examples:

  • The longer I wait, I’ll be more impatient. (X)
    The longer I wait, the more impatient I’ll be. (√)
  • The sooner you see a doctor, you’ll recover faster. (X)
    The sooner you see a doctor, the faster you’ll recover. (√)
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Posted on July 16, 2009, in Sentences and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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