Side by side or parallel?

rogersgeorge on February 20th, 2010

A lot of times we write about two things at once. That’s why we have “and.” Here’s a little trick that will make your writing more logical when you write about two things.

When you have two of something, they should be of the same grammatical type. We call this parallelism.

Here’s an example of how not to do it. The sentence below has three pairs, and one of them is wrong. Can you spot all three and identify the wrong one?

“Injuries and illness bring pain and suffering, as well as causing economic loss to the company.”

Got it? The two pairs of nouns are easy to spot. Injuries and illness, pain and suffering. We also have a pair of verbs, but one is an indicative (bring), and the other is a present participle (causing)! The horror! Writers miss this because they want to sound sophisticated by not using plain old “and,” but but the big, long, cumbersome, usually unnecessary “as well as.” Put “and” in there and suddenly “causing” is obviously wrong. It should be “cause.” Now the two verbs are parallel.  Here’s the improved sentence, nice and clean:

“Injuries and illness bring pain and suffering, and cause economic loss to the company.”

Don’t injure your writing by messing up your parallelism. Got any examples of your own? Share in the comments.

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