3 Examples of Strengthening Parallel Structure

By Mark Nichol

In each of the sentences below, misplacement of a word, or absence of a word, presents an obstacle to comprehension. Discussion and a revision follows each example.

1. These regulations either need to be revised or repealed.

When employing an “either . . . or” phrase, the verb that applies to both choices, which are represented by two words or two phrases that follow either and or, should precede either: “These regulations need to be either revised or repealed.”

2. Smith, a former journalist and passenger on the flight, said that fellow passengers subdued the man until the plane landed about an hour later.

Smith is a former journalist. She is also technically a former passenger, but the relevant fact is that she was a passenger at the time of the incident, not that she used to be a passenger. Therefore, she should be identified both as “a former journalist” as well as “a passenger on the flight”: “Smith, a former journalist and a passenger on the flight, said that fellow passengers subdued the man until the plane landed about an hour later.”

3. They can think more strategically when working with the committee and executive management to formulate plans and analyzing risks.

Readers are likely to assume that “formulate plans” and “analyzing risks” are parallel and that, therefore, the inconsistent inflectional ending of analyzing must be corrected. However, “analyzing risks” is parallel not with “formulate plans” but with the larger phrase that begins “working with” and ends with “formulate plans,” so analyzing correctly matches working. To make clear the extent of the phrase equivalent to “analyzing risks,” repeat when immediately before the latter phrase to match the one before working: “They can think more strategically when working with the committee and executive management to formulate plans and when analyzing risks.”

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1 Response to “3 Examples of Strengthening Parallel Structure”

  • Michael Tevlin

    If your analysis of #3 is correct (that “analyzing risks” is parallel with “when working,” then this revision feels clearer and less cumbersome to me: “They can think more strategically when analyzing risks and working with the committee and executive management to formulate plans.”

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