3 Examples of Problems with Parallel Structure

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following sentences, sentence construction obscures the complementary relationship between parallel phrases. Discussion following each example explains the problem, and revisions illustrate solutions.

1. Follow this step with user support and usage monitoring to ensure a smooth transition and optimal user experience during and post-implementation.

The phrase “during and post-implementation” is treated as if it is an instance of suspensive hyphenation, but the sentence is incomplete with a noun after during: “Follow this step with user support and usage monitoring to ensure a smooth transition and an optimal user experience during implementation and postimplementation.” However, the prefixed word postimplementation is correct but unwieldy, so simply withhold the repetition and replace the prefix with a free-standing conjunction: “Follow this step with user support and usage monitoring to ensure a smooth transition and an optimal user experience during and after implementation.”

2. There seems to be an idea that blaming the other side for failure is as good, if not better, than getting something done in a bipartisan way.

If a parenthetical phrase has been interjected into a sentence, in its absence, the base sentence must be syntactically valid. Here, the result of a test deletion of “if not better” is “There seems to be an idea that blaming the other side for failure is as good than getting something done in a bipartisan way.” Obviously, something is wrong—a repetition of as is necessary, and than belongs in the parenthesis: “There seems to be an idea that blaming the other side for failure is as good as, if not better than, getting something done in a bipartisan way.”

3. This regulation helps guarantee the financial services industry upholds its obligation to protect consumers and ensure that its systems are sufficiently constructed to prevent cyberattacks to the fullest extent possible.

The conjunction that is sometimes unnecessary (“Do you think it’s required in this sentence?”), but if it employed in a given phrase, it should be included in a complementary phrase in the same sentence, as here: “This regulation helps guarantee that the financial services industry upholds its obligation to protect consumers and ensure that its systems are sufficiently constructed to prevent cyberattacks to the fullest extent possible.” (Without that in place after guarantee, the reader is initially misled into thinking that the regulation guarantees the industry itself rather than something about the industry.)

Recommended for you: « »



4 Responses to “3 Examples of Problems with Parallel Structure”

  • D.A.W.

    Therefore, the history of modern Italy can be divided into three parts: the era before the Fascists, the Fascist Era of Mussolini, and the era after the Fascists.
    The history of Brazil can be divided loosely into three eras: the time of the Portuguese Empire, the time of the Brazilian Empire, and the time of the Brazilian Republic. This is disregarding various dictatorships and military juntas.

  • D.A.W.

    A. All three examples are purely bureaucratese, and they should be condemned on that basis alone.
    B. Some mention is made of “conjunction”. The words “before”, “during”, and “after” are actually prepositions. They are called “temporal prepositions” because they have to do with time.
    C. “post-implementation”: The prefixes “pre” and “post” do not need hyphenation under any circumstances — except with proper nouns and proper adjectives — and neither does “ante”. There is always a way around words (of bureaucratese) like “postimplementation” by using prepositional phrases instead.
    I find that sentences like the following are lazily written and awkward, too: “The history of modern Italy can be divided into three parts, the pre-Fascist era, the Fascist Era, and the post-Fascist era.”
    It appears that someone has taken his inoculation against prepositional phrases.

  • D.A.W.

    Mr. Tevlin is completely correct. Here is a concise explanation:
    The subject of the sentence is “regulation”, and this is singular. The sentence has two main verbs, “guarantee” and “ensure”, and these both need to be in the 3rd-person singular: “guarantees” & “insures”.
    This is purely subject-verb agreement and parallel construction,

  • Michael Tevlin

    Question about your correction to the third example in your post “3 Examples of Problems with Parallel Structure”: “This regulation helps guarantee that the financial services industry upholds its obligation to protect consumers and ensure that its systems are sufficiently constructed to prevent cyberattacks to the fullest extent possible.”

    Shouldn’t “ensure” be “ensures”? As in, “This regulation helps guarantee that the financial services industry upholds its obligation to protect consumers and ensures that its systems are sufficiently constructed to prevent cyberattacks to the fullest extent possible.”

    The regulation guarantees that the financial services industry does two things: upholds and ensures.

Leave a comment: