Using Repetition to Produce Parallel Structure

By Mark Nichol

Sentences that fail to observe a sound grammatical structure sometimes do so because a key word or phrase is not repeated (or balanced with a similar word or phrase) as part of an element equivalent to a previous element in the sentence. Each of the sentences below is missing a repeated word or phrase; the discussions that follow the examples explain what is lacking and the revisions demonstrate how to resolve the issues.

1. Measurements should align to business objectives and demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship when possible.

The writer assumes that the phrase beginning with demonstrate can share should with the one beginning with align, but the sentence can easily be misread as stating that measurements merely should align to business objectives but do in fact demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship. To clarify that should applies to both phrases, the qualifier should be repeated: “Measurements should align to business objectives and should demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship when possible.”

2. This action can affect companies that rely on suppliers in that country to make their products as well as the country’s consumers to buy those products.

The phrase “make their products as well as” implies that a comparison is being made, rather than that “as well as” is serving as a conjunctive phrase. Also, the distance between the phrase beginning with suppliers and the one beginning with “the country’s consumers” obscures their parallel functions. To clarify the intent of the sentence, repeat the key verb phrase: “This action can affect companies that rely on suppliers in that country to make their products as well as rely on the country’s consumers to buy those products.” (Alternatively use a synonym for rely such as count instead of repeating it.)

3. These reforms have now led to significant adjustments to how short-term credit is provided and the demise of a number of firms operating in this space.

The phrase “the demise of a number of firms operating in this space” seems abruptly tacked on to this sentence. To clarify that the phrase is parallel to “significant adjustments to how short-term credit is provided,” it could be preceded by to, but the reader might mistake it as equivalent to “how short-term credit is provided” because that phrase also follows an instance of to. Better yet, launch the last part of the sentence with a more thorough linking phrase: “These reforms have now led to significant adjustments to how short-term credit is provided and has resulted in the demise of a number of firms operating in this space.”

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2 Responses to “Using Repetition to Produce Parallel Structure”

  • Laurie Fite

    Why did you use “has resulted” in your last sentence instead of “have resulted”? Doesn’t that phrase modify “reforms” and should therefore be plural?

  • Lynn

    I like your alternate wording in #3 but since “These reforms” is the subject, it should be “have resulted.” In either wording, I think changing the second “to” to “in” sounds better. “These reforms have led to significant adjustments in how short-term credit is provided and have resulted in the demise of a number of firms operating in this space.”

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