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Author Topic: Maintaining parallelism of long serial grammar elements  (Read 142 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: August 15, 2017, 11:35:47 PM »

Maintaining parallelism is easy enough when related or similar grammar elements consist of only one or just a few words, as in the following sentences:

Eating, swimming, hiking, and sleeping—that’s all we did during our summer vacation.”

“Our Physics professor is very intelligent, considerate, and good-looking.”

“The plant supervisor dealt with the striking workers impulsively, inconsiderately, and tactlessly.”



Things get a little sticky, however, when what need to be set in parallel are long noun clauses and phrases, long verb clauses and phrases, and long gerund, infinitive, and participial phrases. Stickier still when these long grammar structures have been woven into compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences! As the word maze grows, failing to identify the parallel elements and losing one’s grammatical bearings become a clear and ever present danger.  

ACHIEVING PARALLELISM BY USING ALL-PROGRESSIVE-TENSE VERB PHRASE STRUCTURES


The parallelism rules that we will discuss next should help forestall that danger:

(1) Make the structure parallel for long clauses and phrases linked by the coordinating conjunctions “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so” (the “fanboys”). The following sentence stumbles on an unparallel tangle of gerund, infinitive, and modal phrases:

“She enjoyed taking leisurely walks at the state park during summer, to go boating in the mile-wide lagoon when most of the tourist crowd had hied off to their hotels, and would lazily write long letters to her friends back home.”

We find these three grammar structures running helter-skelter in the sentence: “taking leisurely walks at the state park during summer” (gerund phrase), “to go boating in the mile-wide lagoon when most of the tourist crowd had hied off to their hotels” (infinitive phrase), and “would lazily write long letters to her friends back home” (modal phrase).

Now see what happens when we convert these errant structures into all-gerund phrases:

“She enjoyed taking leisurely walks at the state park during summer, going boating in the mile-wide lagoon when most of the tourist crowd had hied off to their hotels, and lazily writing long letters to her friends back home.

ACHIEVING PARALLELISM BY USING ALL-GERUND PHRASE STRUCTURES


By changing the main verb “enjoyed” to “liked,” we can also make the errant structures parallel as all-infinitive phrases:

“She liked to take leisurely walks at the state park during summer, to go boating in the mile-wide lagoon when most of the tourist crowd had hied off to their hotels, and to lazily write long letters to her friends back home.”

(The “to” in the second and third phrases are optional.)

Let’s try the parallel technique on a foursome linked by “and” and “but”:

“He went to see her to profess his undying love and promising to marry her as soon as she wished, but she answered him with a resounding ‘No!’ and driven him out of her house.”

Here’s one way to make the disjointed phrases parallel:

“He went to see her to profess his undying love and to promise to marry her as soon as she wished, but she answered him with a resounding ‘No!’ and drove him out of her house.”

In the first coordinate clause, the elements “to profess his undying love...” and “to promise to marry her...” became parallel as matching infinitive phrases. In the second coordinate clause, “answered him...” and “drove him out...” became parallel as matching verb phrases in the simple past tense.

(This time, make the original sentence parallel yourself by using matching gerund phrases or matching verbs in the appropriate tenses. Send me your work and I promise to critique them.)

ACHIEVING PARALLELISM BY USING ALL-NOUN PHRASE STRUCTURES


(2) Make the structure parallel for such constructions as “either. . .or,” “neither...nor,” “nor, not,” and “not...but, not.”  These grammar constructions function properly only when the elements they relate are strictly in parallel. See how one of them fails without parallelism: “My plan for next summer is either to visit Vancouver or going to Paris.”

Now feel the semantic smoothness of these two alternative parallel constructions:

“My plan for summer is either to visit Vancouver or to go to Paris.”

“My plan for summer is either visiting Vancouver or going to Paris.”

(3) Make the structure parallel for parallel groups of words in a sentence. The following sentence falters because its related elements do not have the same parallel structure:

“She pledged to live with him through thick and thin and that she will ignore his petty shortcomings.”

When the two parallel elements are constructed in the same “that...” form, the sentence becomes parallel:

“She pledged that she will live with him through thick and thin and that she will ignore his petty shortcomings.”

Here’s another sentence made decrepit by unparallel structures:

By going to the construction site myself, and since I can personally supervise the work, I can have the project finished on schedule.”

Upright and sprightly in parallel:

By going to the construction site myself and by personally supervising the work, I can have the project finished on schedule.”

As we have seen, parallelism is an indispensable and powerful tool for organizing and clarifying ideas. Don’t expect your prose to fly without it. (2003)

This essay, 280th in the series, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the October 28, 2003 issue of The Manila Times, © 2003 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
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