7 Solutions for Sentences with Problematic Parallels
1. “The street is lined with boisterous sports bars, nail salons, and clothing boutiques.”
Some neighborhood, where nail salons and clothing boutiques can be described as boisterous. Do I misunderstand? I do, because when only the first of several items in a list is given an adjective, it is easily confused as applying to each item in the list. Either omit the adjective, or play fair and supply each item with its own: “The street is lined with elegant nail salons, trendy clothing boutiques, and boisterous sports bars.”
2. “The process would be confidential, voluntary, and the information would remain the property of the teachers.”
The same rule applies for verbs. Either use a verb to apply to all items in a list, or attach a verb to each item. Or, in this case, combine the first two items into a combined item: “The process would be confidential and voluntary, and the information would remain the property of the teachers.”
3. “The so-called beer summit was photographed, discussed, and dissected on blogs, newscasts, and in barbershops and bars nationwide.”
Let’s not forget prepositions. In a list, one preposition carries each item, or each has its own; there’s no middle ground: “The so-called beer summit was photographed, discussed, and dissected on blogs, during newscasts, and in barbershops and bars nationwide.” (For variety, try to use a different preposition for each item.)
4. “It would be safer to keep our bushy tree trimmed so that no would-be burglar could hide under it and buy a locked mailbox to help prevent identity theft.”
Infinitives want equal standing, too. The original sentence implies that the would-be burglar might buy a locked mailbox after hiding under the bushy tree. The addition of a parallel infinitive after the conjunction linking the two parts of a sentence arrests this infelicity: “It would be safer to keep our bushy tree trimmed so that no would-be burglar could hide under it and to buy a locked mailbox to help prevent identity theft.”
5. “Legislation is often to blame, not because legislators are bad people but often they act on partial or misleading information.”
Two reasons, one invalid and the other valid, are supplied in this sentence. Set them up separately, each with its own because: “Legislation is often to blame, not because legislators are bad people but because they often act on partial or misleading information.”
6. “The location features stifling heat, bacteria, polluted seas, lice, and bad cuisine.”
If you’re going to modify one or most nouns in a list, go all the way and precede each with a pertinent adjective: “The location features stifling heat, gut-wrenching bacteria, polluted seas, itchy lice, and bad cuisine.”
7. “The afflictions are believed to include autism and learning and hyperactivity disorders.”
Is learning a stand-alone item, or does disorders apply to it as well as to hyperactivity? You don’t know until you get to the end of the sentence, when it’s too late. The inclusion of a comma after autism prevents a stumble, and inserting “as well as” helps link the two remaining list items: “The afflictions are believed to include autism, as well as learning and hyperactivity disorders.”
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