Author Topic: The great importance of parallelism in good writing – 3  (Read 11148 times)

Joe Carillo

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The great importance of parallelism in good writing – 3
« on: March 05, 2020, 06:31:20 AM »
The first two parts of this series on parallelism in writing took up two basic rules for parallel construction, namely that a statement that presents two or more grammar elements in series should stick to the same pattern all throughout, and that a parallel serial sentence structure that begins with a clause should sustain that pattern all the way. Our writing will be much clearer and more forceful if we consistently observe these rules.

Sentences in our exposition must rigorously observe these four specific construction guidelines to achieve parallelism: (1) All elements being enumerated in a series must have the same grammatical form; (2) All elements being compared in a series must have the same grammatical form; (3) All elements joined by a linking verb or a verb of being must have the same grammatical form; and (4) All elements joined by a correlative conjunction must have the same grammatical form.

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All elements in a serial list should have the same grammatical form. Our expositions will be much better organized and more readable if they consistently use the same and most appropriate grammatical form for all the elements in a serial list, whether noun forms, verb forms, infinitive phrases, gerund phrases, or participial phrases. Allowing any element to take a different form breaks the rhythm of the enumeration, needlessly disrupting the reader’s or listener’s train of thought.

Consider this 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 because its grammar elements don’t follow a consistent 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 the list reads when we make each of its elements a verb phrase:

“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.”

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

All elements joined by a linking verb or a verb of being should have the same grammatical form. When “is” or a verb of being links two elements, both of them should 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.”

All elements joined by a correlative conjunction should have the same grammatical form. When using the correlative conjunctions “either . . .  or,” “neither . . . nor,” “not only . . . but also,” “both . . . and . . .”, and “whether . . . or,” 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 are asking for huge down payments.” Parallel: “They demand not only very short installment periods but also huge down payments.”

(Next week:  The great importance of parallelism in good writing – 4)      March 12, 2020                            

This essay, 1,184th of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the March 5, 2020 print and Internet editions of The Manila Times,© 2020 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Check out this column online in The Manila Times:
The great importance of parallelism in good writing – 3

« Last Edit: March 19, 2020, 07:46:52 AM by Joe Carillo »