Parallel Construction Exercise (275)

A common stylistic fault is a lack of balance in sentences, a lack of parallel structure. Parallel structure involves using the same pattern of words in a sequence in which two or more patterns of words have the same importance. Choose the balanced sentence in each pair.

    1.
    The plays of Shakespeare remain timely because they contain: expressive language, realistic characters, and the plots are really intriguing.
    The plays of Shakespeare remain timely because they contain: expressive language, realistic characters, and intriguing plots.

    2.
    When I arrived at the conference, I expected to see old friends, to sell some books, and to meet with an agent.
    When I arrived at the conference, I expected to see old friends, to sell some books, and would meet with an agent.

    3.
    Macbeth killed King Duncan, exiled Malcolm, and became King of Scotland.
    Macbeth killed King Duncan, exiled Malcolm, and was crowned King of Scotland.

    4.
    Serious writers read the classics, master the rules of writing, and are always learning.
    Serious writers read the classics, master the rules of writing, and never stop learning.

    5.
    His son likes to hunt, ski and to fish.
    His son likes to hunt, to ski, and to fish.

Answers and Explanations

1. The plays of Shakespeare remain timely because they contain: expressive language, realistic characters, and intriguing plots.
When a list follows a colon, the items in the list should contain the same word pattern. "Expressive language" and "realistic characters" are nouns preceded by adjectives; "the plots are really intriguing" is a clause.

2. When I arrived at the conference, I expected to see old friends, to sell some books, and to meet with an agent.
A list of objects following a verb should conform to the same pattern. "To see" and "to sell" are infinitives; "would meet" is a finite verb.

3. Macbeth killed King Duncan, exiled Malcolm, and became King of Scotland.
In a series of clauses, all of the clauses should be in the same voice. "Killed" and "exiled" are in active voice; "was crowned" is in passive voice.

4. Serious writers read the classics, master the rules of writing, and never stop learning.
In a compound predicate made up of clauses, each clause should have the same kind of verb. "Read" and "master" are simple present forms; "are learning" is a continuous form.

5. His son likes to hunt, to ski, and to fish.
The "to" of an infinitive may often be omitted, but in a series, it’s necessary to put in all the "to’s" or to leave out the ones that follow the first one.

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