Faulty Parallelism
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Parallelism refers to the expression of balanced ideas in balanced grammatical forms. Thus single words should be balanced with single words, phrases with phrases, and clauses with clauses. Faulty parallelism occurs when ideas of equal weight fail to be expressed in grammatical forms of equal weight.


Examples of This Trouble

Wrong: In our society, the elderly feel alienated, because they are confined in retirement homes, their unattractive representation in the media, and the capitalist economy deems them unproductive.
(The three items in the dependent clause, which starts with because, should be in parallel grammatical form.)
Corrected: In our society, the elderly feel alienated, because they are confined in retirement homes, they are represented unfavourably in the media, and they are deemed unproductive by the capitalist economy.
(The three items now all share the same grammatical form of the clause.)

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Examples of Parallel Forms

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Parallel Words

My favorite activities are swimming, skating, and dancing.  
(The -ing words are parallel in form and equal in importance.)

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Parallel Phrases

Books enable me to see the world and to imagine better worlds.
(The "to" phrases are parallel in form and equal in importance.)

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Parallel Clauses

My friends attend school, because they like to make new friends, because they want to play new sports, or because they love to learn new things.
(The "because" clauses are parallel in structure and equal in importance.)

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How to Fix the Problem

Convert all items in the list or series to the same grammatical form. Choose a grammatical form that best represents the parallel ideas.

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Faulty Parallelism with Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are combinations of coordinating conjunctions and other words. Correlative conjunctions function in pairs to join equivalent grammatical structures. They include "either…or," "neither…nor," "not only…but also," "both…and," "whether…or," and "not…so much as." Make sure that the grammatical structure following the second half of the pair is the same as that following the first half.

Wrong: The doors in the cottage were not only too narrow but also were too short.
(The "not only…but also" construction is not parallel. The "not only comes after the verb in the first part of the sentence, but the "but also" comes before the verb in the second part. The second verb is not needed, since the correlative conjunctions are balancing words not clauses.)
Corrected: The doors in the cottage were not only too narrow but also were too short.

Wrong: I was counseled either to quit my job or ask for a higher wage.
(The second part of the sentence does not balance with the first. The second "to" is left out.)
Corrected: I was counseled either to quit my job or to ask for a higher wage.

Wrong: Either you leave town by the train or by the road.
Corrected: You leave town either by the train or by the road.

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