3 Parallel-Structure Problems

By Mark Nichol

Each of the following sentences has an organizational flaw. A discussion of each is followed by a suggested revision.

1. People who are successful at careers in fashion design are hardworking, detail oriented, and love apparel.

Each of the three qualities of successful fashion designers must be preceded by a verb, or they all must share one—or the first two must be connected by a conjunction in order to share one. Here, hardworking is supported by are and apparel follows love, but “detail oriented” is orphaned. The sentence must be restructured so that “detail oriented” shares are with hardworking: “People who are successful at careers in fashion design are hard working and detail oriented and love apparel.” (“People who are successful at careers in fashion design are hard working, are detail oriented, and love apparel” is also correct, but the first two qualities are closely related as terms that refer to aptitudes as opposed to the attitudinal quality of an interest in attire, so sharing of a conjunction seems more appropriate.)

2. Gluten has been blamed for everything from weight gain, bloating to mood issues such as depression.

A list of factors must be organized as a list or a spectrum, but this sentence, although it is constructed to express a range of several factors, mixes the approaches. For consistency, the factors should be separated by prepositions only, without punctuation: “Gluten has been blamed for everything from weight gain to bloating to mood issues such as depression.”

3. Site users can be matched by location, gender, age, sexual orientation, and they’re encouraged to post a photo and personal description.

The independent clause that follows the conjunction and is not part of the list in the preceding independent clause, which requires and before the final item in that list: “Site users can be matched by location, gender, age, and sexual orientation, and they’re encouraged to post a photo and personal description.”

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1 Response to “3 Parallel-Structure Problems”

  • Agua Caliente

    I am seriously tempted to ask my spouse, who not only is far better credentialed than I to weigh in on these kinds of structural problems, but who is also currently doing related work. However, said spouse’s time should not be usurped lightly, so I will simply offer my own humble views.

    Despite the technical deficiencies of Number One, I might stet on it. Why? Because it communicates very well exactly what is meant, as concisely as possible without sounding awkward. At one point in my learning experience, I probably would have been instructed to rewrite the sentence thus: “People successful at fashion-design careers work hard, pay attention to detail, and love apparel.” (I really did have classes where you had to defend any use of passives.)

    Number Three is up next. Never a fan of the same conjunction used multiple times in one sentence, I’d consider breaking this into two parts:

    “Site users can be matched by location, gender, age, and sexual orientation. They’re encouraged to post a photo and personal description.” Lists are funny. Sometimes an and feels intrusive, even when it’s needed.

    This grammar stuff is all-consuming…also I need to do some actual work, so Number Two gets an imprimatur.

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