Friday, September 25, 2015

Parallel Structure ~ Blurred Lines

Towards the end of the last century, one of my college students wrote, "I work with men, women, and truck drivers."

I suggested he change it to "mechanics, accountants, and truck drivers" or "men, women, and intersex people."  

What Is Good Parallel Structure?
Parallel structure involves writing so that the connecting or balancing parts of a sentence have the same grammatical structure.

Examples of Incorrect Parallel Structure:  
  1. At that time, I was young, very eager to search for opportunities and did not have much confidence in myself. 
  2. When she arrived late at my dinner in a halter and started handing out her new CD, I judged her as selfish for being late, not wearing appropriate clothing, and promoting herself to one and all.”
  3. I did not explain alternate solutions such as contacting the ombudsman or visit a counsellor.
  4. My coworker will often speak to me about the issues she encounters at work and when she is frustrated by our manager's ambiguous instructions.
  1. The three items should be adjectives or adjectival phrases and should follow from "I was":  "I was young, eager, and lacking confidence."
  2. I judged her as selfish for being late, inappropriately dressed, and attention-seeking.
  3. Visit, of course, should be visiting.
  4. Both items following "about" should be noun phrases:  1) the issues she encounters at work and 2) her frustration at our manager's ambiguous instructions.

How Can I Spot Faulty Parallelism?

Reading aloud will help.  Also look at any place where you have a list.  If I have called you out on a parallel structure error, read over these examples of parallel structure.  You will become informed, discerning, and perceptive.  Moreover, you will learn to write better, dammit.

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