Monday, January 14, 2008

Parallel Construction, 1

As promised this week we'll discuss parallel construction.

Sometimes an editor will write, in the margin next to a particular sentence, faulty parallelism or not parallel. I’ve had questions as to what this means, but without specific examples from the questioner, I can't easily answer the question because there are so many reasons for faulty construction.

In simple terms, faulty parallelism is a clumsy sentence or paragraph that doesn’t mesh with the words, phrases, or sentences around it. Grammatically the writer is jumping from one type of construction to another.

Anne Stillman in Grammatically Correct states it this way: “Ensuring parallelism in your writing does not mean that every sentence should be structured the same way. What it does mean is that if you are creating a sentence, a list or a passage that contains elements related in purpose or structure, these elements must be presented in the same grammatical form. Thus, you must not got arbitrarily from the active voice to the passive, from the second person to the third, from the present tense to the past, from a series of adjectives to a noun. You must also be consistent in your use of minor words such as prepositions, articles, pronouns and conjunctions.”

Here are some examples of faulty construction (also taken from Grammatically Correct):

The lecture was long, a bore, and uninspiring.

Planning a surprise party calls for organizing, scheduling, and cunning.

He had always preferred talking to listening, and to give rather than to take direction.

Her responsibilities were the management of the PR department and to attend trade shows.

A computerized database index needs to be reorganized when it has become fragmented, or to correct the skewing of values.

She told him to get to the hotel by six o’clock, that he should check with the concierge for messages, leave his luggage at the front desk and to wait for her in the lobby.

See if you can come up with sentences that will correct the faulty construction in each of these sentences. We’ll check your answers tomorrow, as we discuss what makes them faulty and what to do to correct them.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 33–35, Romans 11:19–end of chapter

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