3 Problems of Parallel Structure
Faulty combination of elements in sentences is a common syntactical flaw. Here are three examples of this type of organizational error.
1. “She is bright, creative, and has much to share.”
This sentence, in which the predicate includes two adjectives following a verb, then a conjunction and a verb phrase, is out of balance. The subject is credited with three attributes, and they must share one verb, or each must have its own verb. The sentence initially appears to follow the former rule, but then another verb appears. The only way to maintain this structure is to combine bright and creative into a single item: “She is bright and creative and has much to share.” (Note that the comma after creative is no longer necessary.)
Alternatively, creative could be assigned its own verb, but it — and the final phrase — would require a proprietary repetition of the pronoun as well: “She is bright, she is creative, and she has much to share.”
2. “We’ve saved a lot of money by using less paper, less water, less energy, and by creating less waste.”
Savings have occurred thanks to two factors: 1) use of less paper, water, and energy and 2) less production of waste; this sentence fails to structure this description correctly. The list of three items is distinct from the second element of the sentence, so it must include a conjunction between the second and third items: “We’ve saved a lot of money by using less paper, less water, and less energy and by creating less waste.” (Note also that because “less energy” is no longer mistakenly regarded as the penultimate item in a list of four things, no comma is necessary after the phrase.)
3. “His positive energy and willingness to work hard on every assignment is key to his success.”
When two nouns separated by a conjunction follow an adjective, the adjective generally applies to both nouns, but here, positive applies only to energy, so the pronoun must be repeated before willingness to clarify that “positive willingness” is not implied: “His positive energy and his willingness to work hard on every assignment is key to his success.”
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