Incomplete Parallels

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following sentences, an associated pair of phrases are not optimally stated and organized to make their relationship clear. The discussion after each statement proposes a solution, which follows in each case.

1. Follow with user support and usage monitoring to ensure a smooth transition and an optimal user experience during and post-implementation.

In this sentence, during and the prefix post– share implementation (and post should be directly attached, with no hyphen), but a preposition and a prepositional prefix cannot share a root word, so replace post– with a distinct preposition: “Follow with user support and usage monitoring to ensure a smooth transition and an optimal user experience during and after implementation.”

2. Millions of Americans, including younger citizens, recent immigrants, and those who do not use credit actively, have a limited or no credit history.

The parallel structure of “a limited or no” is not erroneous, but the idea is more clearly communicated with more complete wording: “Millions of Americans, including younger citizens, recent immigrants, and those who do not use credit actively, have a limited credit history or none at all.”

3. Such programs should be based on a clear understanding and an evaluation of potential threats of data loss. 

Understanding cannot share a preposition with evaluation, because the article an grammatically partitions the two nouns. (An cannot be omitted, because doing so will imply that clear applies to evaluation as well as to understanding.) Assign understanding its own iteration of of, and, to provide further clarity, treat the corresponding phrase as a parenthetical: “Such programs should be based on a clear understanding of, and an evaluation of, potential threats of data loss.”

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2 Responses to “Incomplete Parallels”

  • Dane Zeller

    “,,, but the idea is more clearly communicated with more complete wording: …”
    I think there is a more correct way to say this.

  • Michael Tevlin

    For #3, here’s another potential solution:

    Such programs should be based on an evaluation and clear understanding of potential threats of data loss.

    This solution clarifies that the adjective “clear” only modifies “understanding.”

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