5 Examples of Faulty Parallel Structure

By Mark Nichol

One type of grammatical errors seen frequently is that of faulty parallel structure, in which corresponding words or phrases do not match to create a logical syntax. Here are five examples of sentences in which parallel structure is flawed, with a discussion of each error.

1. She played at San Francisco venues such as the Avalon, the Fillmore, and Carousel Ballroom.

In isolation, the names of each of these venues should be preceded by the: “the Avalon,” “the Fillmore,” and “the Carousel Ballroom.” When listed together in one sentence, the same is true: “She played at San Francisco venues such as the Avalon, the Fillmore, and the Carousel Ballroom.”

2. I’m not just upset that Mary told Jane, but also that she was so rude.

The writer is upset about not only A but also B, so the verb should precede the counterpoint phrases “not just that” (the three words of which should not be interrupted by another) and “also that”: “I’m upset not just that Mary told Jane but also that she was so rude.” Note also that the comma before “but also” is unnecessary.

3. The site does not look at opinions or predictions, but statements that the general public would be interested in knowing the truth about.

Just as in the previous example, the opposing phrases (in this case, “not at” and “but at”) should both follow the verb they share (in this case, look, which should not intervene in the first of the two phrases): “The site looks not at opinions or predictions but at statements that the general public would be interested in knowing the truth about.”

4. The website evaluates only statements that are clear, precise, and are not obviously true.

Three adjectives listed in this sentence—clear, precise, and true—can share a verb, or each can be preceded by its own verb, but this sentence does not apply either option; the first and third adjectives have their own verbs but precise doesn’t. The correct alternatives are “The website evaluates only statements that are clear, precise, and not obviously true” and “The website evaluates only statements that are clear, are precise, and are not obviously true.”

5. The virus is usually picked up through contact with an infected person, consuming food or drinks contaminated with the virus, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth.

Similar to the previous example, in this sentence, the three items in this list can share a preposition, or each can have its own (not necessarily the same one used three times). The choices are “The virus is usually picked up through contact with an infected person, consuming food or drinks contaminated with the virus, or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth” and “The virus is usually picked up through contact with an infected person, by consuming food or drinks contaminated with the virus, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth.”

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5 Responses to “5 Examples of Faulty Parallel Structure”

  • Precise Edit

    Good topic.

    I believe #5 needs an additional correction.

    Current:
    Contact
    Consuming food
    Touching a contaminated surface

    Corrected:
    Having contact
    Consuming food
    Touching a contaminated surface

  • Caitlin

    Surely the listing of the ballrooms should be in accordance with how they are known. If the latter ballroom is known as Carousel Ballroom, rather than the Carousel Ballroom, isn’t it appropriate to leave the article off?

    Also, re 5, I believe that instead of ‘the virus is usually picked up by….’ it should read, ‘the virus is picked up by usually…’.

  • venqax

    @Caitlin: Huh?
    “‘the virus is picked up by usually ‘ contact with an infected person,”
    ?? Not clear what you mean.

  • Melissa Semento

    I am thankful for this post. It did help me with many errors that could easily happen in my writing. I do think that #2 could also be, “I am upset with Mary, not just because she told Jane but also that she was so rude.”

  • Precise Edit

    Melissa-almost, but no.
    The text following ‘not only’ must be structually equal to the text following ‘but also.’ Thus, “not just because…but also because….” However, moving ‘upset’ to the location you suggest is an acceptable stylistic choice, provided the remainder of the sentence employs a correct parallel structure.

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