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Author Topic: 4 specific applications of the parallelism rules  (Read 102 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: November 09, 2017, 12:22:56 AM »

We have already taken up the two basic rules for parallel construction, namely that a sentence that presents two or more serial elements should stick to the same pattern all throughout, and that a parallel structure that begins with a clause should sustain that pattern all the way. We saw that by consistently observing these rules, we can build much clearer and more forceful sentences.

Now we need to refamiliarize ourselves with four specific applications of these two rules: (1) that all of the elements being enumerated in a list should take the same grammatical form, (2) that elements being compared should take the same grammatical form, (3) that elements joined by a linking verb or a verb of being should take the same grammatical form, and (4) that elements joined by a correlative conjunction should take the same grammatical form.

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All elements in a list should have a parallel structure. We can better organize and make our written compositions more readable by using the same grammatical form for all of the elements we are enumerating in a list. The elements should all be noun forms, verb forms, infinitive phrases, gerund phrases, or participial phrases, whichever is most appropriate. When any of the elements takes a different form, the rhythm of the enumeration is broken and the reader’s train of thought is needlessly disrupted.

Consider the following not-so-well-thought-out list:

“At present, our club has: (1) no formal charter, (2) subsisting without a long-term organizational goal, (3) a seriously declining membership, (4) a large budgetary deficit, and (5) to collect a large amount of past-due membership fees.”

The list looks awfully craggy and reads very badly for an obvious reason: its elements don’t follow a consistent grammatical form. Items 1, 3, and 4 are noun phrases, but Item 2 is a verb phrase in the progressive form and Item 5 is an infinitive phrase.  

Now see how smoothly and cohesively the list reads when its elements all take the same grammatical form, in this case as all verb phrases:

“At present, our club: (1) lacks a formal charter, (2) subsists without a long-term organizational goal, (3) suffers from a seriously declining membership, (4) carries a large budgetary deficit, and (5) needs to collect a large amount of past-due membership fees.”

Elements being compared should use a parallel structure. In constructions that use the form “X is better than/more than Y,” we must make sure that the elements being compared have the same grammatical structure. Unparallel (gerund/infinitive): “She enjoys jogging better than to run.” Parallel (gerund/gerund): “She enjoys jogging better than running.”

Elements joined by a linking verb or a verb of being should use a parallel structure. When we use “is” as a verb of being linking two elements, we must make sure that the elements have the same grammatical structure. Unparallel (infinitive/ gerund): “To make that impossible demand is declaring open hostilities.” Parallel (infinitive/infinitive): “To make that impossible demand is to declare open hostilities.”  

Elements joined by a correlative conjunction should use a parallel structure. When we use the correlative conjunctions “either…or,” “neither …nor,” “not only…but also,” “both…and…”, and “whether…or,” we have to make sure that the elements being correlated have the same grammatical structure.

Unparallel (gerund/infinitive): “For you to get to Manila on time, we suggest either taking the morning flight tomorrow or to drive overnight right now.” Parallel (gerund/gerund): “For you to get to Manila on time, we suggest either taking the morning flight tomorrow or driving overnight right now.”

Unparallel: “They not only demand very short installment periods but also huge down payments.” Parallel: “They demand not only very short installment periods but also huge down payments.” Also parallel: “They not only demand very short installment periods but also demand huge down payments.”

This essay, 1065th in the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of the November 9, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.



(Next: Harnessing parallelism for structural balance)     November 16, 2017
« Last Edit: November 10, 2017, 03:10:59 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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