Thursday, May 24, 2007

Parallelism : Use parallel structure to express matching ideas

Wrong: "The most important things in soccer are dribbling, passing and to know how to shoot."

The principle of parallelism in writing is simply that parts of a sentence performing the same logical function (i.e., doing the same work) must be of like construction.

So the sentence above should read: "The most important things in soccer are dribbling, passing and shooting." That way all the elements are gerunds, rather than one of them being an infinitive phrase.

This is in section 26 of Harbrace, Parallelism, which includes

26 Use parallel structure as an aid to coherence, and

26a For parallel structure, balance a word with a word, a phrase with a phrase, a clause with a clause, a sentence with a sentence.

There are several other excellent editing rules in this section, along with many useful exercises. Learning this principle is an easy way to pick up a few points in the writing/grammar section of the PSAT or new SAT , as in the following SAT Question of the Day:

As a Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall

was known for his quest to end racial discrimination,

his opposition to the death penalty, and

he supported free speech and civil liberties.

No error

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