Faulty parallels–why you should care about them
Faulty parallelism is one of those topics that writers might ask themselves why it matters. The simple answer is that faulty parallels represent sloppy writing, but a second question is whether readers will notice or care. Some will, and as we’ve said so many times before at Write Well, Write to Sell, the ones who do notice could be those who will review your work—negatively.
Okay, so what exactly is a faulty parallel?
—I went to the store, I came home, and fixed dinner.
—My brother asked me when I would visit him and I was telling him I would soon.
—A cracked rib or two, a little pain, and experiencing a few non-fatal wounds would be a good lesson in mortality for him.
Do you see the problems?
Here are the corrected versions:
—I went to the store, I came home, and I fixed dinner. (or) I went to the store, came home, and fixed dinner.
—My brother asked me when I would visit him and I told him I would visit him soon.
—A cracked rib or two, a little pain, and a few non-fatal wounds would be a good lesson in mortality.
These problems of parallelism are fairly obvious, but not all are, and it is very easy to slip up. Check out the following article.
Now that you understand what faulty parallels are, I’m going to present three sets of problem sentences from the “Daily Writing Tips” blogs. I’ve copied just the sentences from the articles. Following each set, I’ve provided the link to the full article for you to look up how to fix them—after you try to fix them yourself, of course.
The first set deals with parallel problems in lists.
—The Writer will sit, eat, and interview the subject.
—The committee consists of the executive directors of the Bay Area Toll Authority, California Transportation Commission, and California Department of Transportation.
—His contribution to the interior design of the home is his impressive antique musical instruments and modern art collection.
—The organization promotes sustainable landscaping practices, green building-construction methods and products, and minimizing pesticide use in the home.
—Here come the summer movies—the usual formulaic action flicks, dumb comedies, and sequels.
ANSWERS: 5 SENTENCES WITH PROBLEMATIC PARALLELISM IN LISTS
Now here are some trickier ones where it may not be so obvious about how to fix them.
—She is bright, creative, and has much to share.
—We’ve saved a lot of money by using less paper, less water, less energy, and by creating less waste.
—His positive energy and willingness to work hard on every assignment is key to his success.
ANSWERS: 3 PROBLEMS OF PARALLEL STRUCTURE
Finally, here’s one more set to practice your newfound skills on.
—We often pay more attention to them than our own children.
—His version is created not with brush and ink, but countless Lego blocks.
—The story here is not one of privacy infringement so much as the way real estate is changing because of technology.
—The rainwater boon isn’t so much about taste as reliability in a region where hundreds of wells dried up in the last drought.
—They protect consumers from purchasing products that are not effective or even dangerous.
—They believe in cultural and racial diversity, but not diversity of opinions.
—Thanks for your generous assistance and support of these books.
—Beagles rely on their acute sense of smell to chase their quarry and alert hunters with their high-pitched barks.
—Those who clashed with the color scheme were getting fired or relegated to the stockroom.
—Families have been leaving the city not so much because of the form housing takes but its price tag.
ANSWERS: 10 TIPS TO BALANCE PARALLEL SENTENCE STRUCTURE
Finally, here is a reference that deals with additional aspects of parallelism problems.
With some practice, you’ll be able to spot problems in parallelism in your writing and to fix them readily. Doing so will make your writing stronger by giving it a smoother rhythm, and even if your readers are not conscious of it, they’ll sense it. Even better, you’ll give your reviewers one less thing to find fault with.
As you read over your work, try to get a feel for the rhythm of it. Reading out loud is a great way to find flow problems. When you hit a spot where the rhythm seems off, check to see if perhaps you have a problem with parallelism.