Lack of Parallelism

Identifying and Fixing Sentences that Lack Parallelism

 

When does a sentence lack parallelism?

 
A sentence lacks parallelism when terms within a list in a sentence do not share a form. For example, the list in the following sentence lacks parallelism:

“This task requires patience, focus, and working together.”

This sentence lacks parallelism because the list includes two nouns (patience and focus) and one -ing phrase (working together).

Sentences that do not technically contain a list can also lack parallelism. If two terms within a sentence are linked, they should be of the same form. An example of such a sentence, written incorrectly, is:

“It was actually more difficult to pass the mid-term exams than passing the final.”

The two terms that are joined together by than are not parallel. One is a prepositional phrase (to pass the mid-term exams), and the other is an -ing phrase (passing the final).
 

How to fix non-parallelism

 
Fixing non-parallel sentences is usually simple. To fix our first non-parallel sentence, “This task requires patience, focus, and working together,” we simply need to reword the -ing phrase as a noun so that it matches the terms patience and focus:

“This task requires patience, focus, and teamwork.”

We could have also reworded patience and focus as -ing phrases, but this would require more work and would result in a wordy sentence:

“This task requires having patience, maintaining focus, and working together.”

The second of our two incorrect sentences, “It was actually more difficult to pass the mid-term exams than passing the final,” can be fixed by making both the linked phrases prepositional phrases:

“It was actually more difficult to pass the mid-term exams than to pass the final.”

Alternatively, the sentence could be written so that both phrases are -ing phrases:

“Passing the mid-term exams was actually more difficult than passing the final.”

 


Jake Magnum, author of the Magnum Proofreading Tips blog, is dedicated to helping writers perfect their work. In addition to giving free advice on his blog, Jake helps writers by offering very affordable proofreading services at magnumproofreading.com.

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