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Author Topic: Sustaining parallel patterns all the way  (Read 132 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: November 02, 2017, 07:42:55 AM »

Our previous discussion emphasized this basic rule for parallel construction: never mix grammatical forms when presenting similar or related ideas. A sentence that presents two or more serial elements should stick to the same pattern all throughout—all noun forms, all gerund forms, all infinitive forms, or all verb forms as the case may be. When serial elements all take the same form, ideas come across much more clearly and cohesively.




This time we’ll take up another very important parallel construction rule: a parallel structure that begins with a clause should sustain that pattern all the way. Recall now that a clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate (and can thus function as a sentence in its own right, as in “we should obey the law”); this is as opposed to a phrase, which is a group of words that doesn’t have either a subject or a predicate (and thus can’t function as a sentence by itself, as in “to obey the law”). When a sentence doesn’t sustain the clause pattern, or when any of its clauses shifts from active to passive voice or the other way around, the parallelism falls apart. The sentence gets disjointed and doesn’t read well.




Take this sentence with three serial grammatical elements: “The English professor told the students that they should aim for perfect attendance, that they should always do their assigned homework, and to submit their term papers on time.” The parallelism of this sentence breaks down because while the first two elements—“they should aim for perfect attendance” and “they should always do their assigned homework”—are both clauses, the third element—“to submit their term papers on time”—is an infinitive phrase.

We need to make this third element also a clause—“they should submit their term papers on time”—to make the sentence perfectly parallel and more readable: “The English professor told the students that they should aim for perfect attendance, that they should do their assigned homework regularly, and that they should submit their term papers on time.”

Of course, a more concise but less emphatic way to construct this serial-clause sentence is to use the imperative “that they should” only once, before the first clause: “The English professor told the students that they should aim for perfect attendance, do their assigned homework regularly, and submit their term papers on time.” (However, such streamlining can obscure the meaning in more complicated constructions.)


 

(ABOVE) TWO EXAMPLES OF PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION STRUCTURES: (1) TWO PARALLEL
DEPENDENT CLAUSES, AND (2) TWO INDEPENDENT-DEPENDENT CLAUSES

The parallel structure of a sentence with serial clauses can also be ruined when any of the clauses takes a different voice, as in this example: “The president anticipated that majority of the Lower House would welcome the planned Charter change, that most of the senators would fiercely oppose it, and that a vicious demolition job would be mounted against it by his political detractors.”

Here, the first two noun clauses—“that majority of the Lower House would welcome the planned charter change” and “that most of the senators would fiercely oppose it”—are both in the active voice, but the third clause—“that a vicious demolition job would be mounted against it by his political detractors”—disrupts that pattern by being in the passive voice.

That third noun clause should also take the active voice—“that her political detractors would mount a vicious demolition job against it”—to make the construction parallel all throughout. The result is a more forceful sentence: “The president anticipated that majority of the Lower House would welcome the planned charter change, that most of the senators would fiercely oppose it, and that his political detractors would mount a vicious demolition job against it.”

We’ll discuss next time more ways that parallelism can enhance the clarity and readability of our writing.

This essay, 1064th in the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of the November 1, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.



(Next: Specific applications of the parallelism rules)  November 9, 2017
« Last Edit: November 02, 2017, 11:41:22 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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