Parallel Structure Exercise (587)

For each pair of sentences, choose the one that correctly organizes the syntactical elements.

    1.
    When people do not trust the justice system, or when they believe it to be biased against them, they take the law into their own hands.
    When people do not trust the justice system or believe it to be biased against them, they take the law into their own hands.

    2.
    Hair metal bands wore big hair and tight spandex and had difficulty spelling their own names.
    Hair metal bands wore big hair, tight spandex, and had difficulty spelling their own names.

    3.
    This is a big achievement for not only South Africa but also the continent.
    This is a big achievement not only for South Africa but also the continent.

    4.
    Buildings in Waco such as the courthouse, hospital, jail, and convention center and the shopping mall were all under guard by police.
    Buildings in Waco such as the courthouse, hospital, jail, convention center, and the shopping mall were all under guard by police.

    5.
    Potter was considered the best, most innovative, and most careful wingsuit BASE jumper there ever was.
    Potter was considered the best, most innovative, and careful wingsuit BASE jumper there ever was.

Answers and Explanations

1. When people do not trust the justice system, or when they believe it to be biased against them, they take the law into their own hands.
The structure of the original sentence implies discussion of when people do not do two things: 1) trust the justice system and 2) believe that the justice system is biased against them. But the phrase "when they" must be inserted before the second item to clarify that "do not" does not apply to that item.

2. Hair metal bands wore big hair and tight spandex and had difficulty spelling their own names.
The middle phrase in the list of three items in this sentence lacks its own verb, and because the verb in the first phrase can apply to it as well, the first two items should be combined into one as shown in the revision. Alternatively, the phrase can be assigned its own verb, as in "Hair metal bands wore big hair, sported tight spandex, and had difficulty spelling their own names."

3. This is a big achievement for not only South Africa but also the continent.
In a "not only . . . but also" construction, what follows "but also" must be structured to be consistent with what follows "not only." Another solution is to insert "for" before "the continent" to match the phrase "for South Africa," but the simplest solution is to move "for" in the original sentence so that it precedes "not only," which allows it to apply the phrasing that follows "but also" as well.

4. Buildings in Waco such as the courthouse, hospital, jail, and convention center and the shopping mall were all under guard by police.
The first four things mentioned can share the initial "the," but the reference to the shopping mall, which would consist of a cluster of buildings, is a separate item with its own article and should be included distinct from the list.

5. Potter was considered the best, most innovative, and most careful wingsuit BASE jumper there ever was.
Of the three qualities mentioned in the original version of this sentence, the first is itself a qualified term equivalent to "most skillful," and "innovative" is qualified by "most," but "careful" lacks a qualifier.

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