5 Points About Parallel Structure

By Mark Nichol

The following five sentences present various problems with sentence organization. Each is followed by a discussion of the sentence and a revision that addresses the problem.

1. The policy is effective, proportionate, and meets the standards.

Effective has the verb is, and standards is supported by meets, but proportionate has no dance partner. It needs the twin of is, or must share the original instance of the verb, as shown here: “The policy is effective and proportionate and meets the standards.”

2. It was a stated requirement not to further increase but, rather, to reallocate capital.

This sentence is not wrong, but it suffers from a delayed keyword. It’s not clear until after the sentence is read that the intention is to counterpoint the idea of increasing capital with the idea of reallocating capital; capital is too far removed from the first word it is intended to be associated with. When capital is located immediately after that first word, the sentence is clearer, and a pronoun can replace the keyword at the end of the sentence: “It was a stated requirement not to further increase capital but, rather, to reallocate it.”

3. We appreciate your time and contributions to our study.

If “and contributions” is omitted from this sentence, what remains is the ungrammatical “We appreciate your time to our study.” To clarify that time and contributions are not intended to be strictly parallel, the pronoun your should be repeated in order to produce two distinct clauses, where a repetition of “we appreciate” is implied after and: “We appreciate your time and your contributions to our study.”

4. They might be confronted with situations that they may not have experienced before and might test them to their limits.

In the simple sentence “They might be confronted with situations that they may not have experienced before,” that is optional. However, in a more complex statement, it is necessary not once, but twice, to signal that “they may not have experienced before” and “might test them to their limits” are parallel phrases: “They might be confronted with situations that they may not have experienced before and that might test them to their limits.”

5. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a joint statement on the new rules.

The phrase “Board of Governors” applies only to the Federal Reserve System, so the first item in this list needs to be set off from the rest (rather, the list needs to be set off from this item) so that no implication that each of the other entities has a board of governors exists: “The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, as well as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, issued a joint statement on the new rules.”

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1 Response to “5 Points About Parallel Structure”

  • Anne-Marie

    “…so that no implication that each of the other entities has a board of governors exists:…”

    This part of this sentence was confusing to me. It made better sense when I relocated exists to come after implication.

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