Archive for the ‘parallel structure’ Category

Parallel Structure: No shifting gears in mid-sentence

Friday, February 6th, 2015

shifting gearsWhen you use a series of phrases within a sentence, it is important to set up a pattern and stick to it. This is PARALLEL STRUCTURE, which it allows your reader to grasp the series of phrases without having to shift gears because you shifted format.

Cameron Smith (Smith Strategies LLC) wrote an opinion piece for The Birmingham News about the recent State of the Union address. It included this rather convoluted sentence:

"Obama poked at conservatives, tried to rile them with talk of tax increases, more "free" government programs, and repeatedly espouse his "middle class" ideas for America."

Whoops! When reading this sentence, it is difficult to recognize what goes with what. MORE "FREE" GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS is not a separate phrase. It belongs with TALK OF TAX INCREASES as one of two things Obama tried to use to rile conservatives. However, REPEATEDLY ESPOUSE…. is a separate phrase and should use the verb form ESPOUSED in the same tense as POKED and TRIED.

So what to do? The three phrases that should be in parallel structure are these:

…POKED AT CONSERVATIVES

…TRIED TO RILE THEM WITH TALK OF TAX INCREASES AND MORE "FREE" GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS

…REPEATEDLY ESPOUSED HIS "MIDDLE CLASS" IDEAS FOR AMERICA

Here is what I consider a good edit of this sentence:

Obama poked at conservatives, tried to rile them with talk of tax increases and more "free" government programs, and repeatedly espoused his "middle class" ideas for America.

NOTE TO READERS: If you'd like to see some examples of how to befuddle the agreement in sentences, please check out the latest two posts on Facebook at Grammar Glitch Central.


Using NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO correctly.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

bug The first 2015 issue of The Pest Bulletin arrived with my pest control bill this week. In its article about bed bugs (Ugh!), I came across this sentence, which is a classic example of how to muddy your writing by avoiding parallel structure:

"The study found that bed bugs can both transmit to mice the parasite that causes Chagas disease–they can also pick up the disease from infected mice."

BOTH followed by a dash is not the way to word this. AND might work (BOTH TRANSMIT AND…), but it doesn't create the correct relationship. My choice would be the phrases NOT ONLY and BUT ALSO, which work well in this type of situation:

The study found that bed bugs not only can transmit to mice the parasite that causes Chagas disease, but they can also pick up the disease from infected mice.

Sorry for the "Ugh!" factor in this post. If you'd like to see how "whether stripping" not only keeps out cold air but also reduces the number of pests coming into your home, please see my Grammar Glitch Central Facebook page for January 26.