What Is Faulty Parallelism?

What is faulty parallelism? This guide will help you understand what this grammar error means and how to avoid it.

You need to create sentence structures that follow a logical, parallel structure in English writing. Faulty parallelism is a grammar error that occurs when the structure of a sentence does not follow grammatical parallelism.

This grammar error is common in English, especially for people learning English as a second language. It’s usually weak writing unless it’s a conscious choice by the writer. As you work to improve your English writing, make sure you learn how to spot faulty parallelism and use parallel construction in various parts of the sentence when you write.

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Understanding Faulty Parallelism

What Is Faulty Parallelism?

So how can you spot faulty parallelism? First, you need to know what it is.

Faulty parallelism happens when you have parts of a sentence that are equal in meaning, such as words in a list, but that do not have the same grammatical form.

In contrast, a sentence with proper parallelism has words, phrases, and equal clauses that have a parallel structure and placement. Nouns match with nouns, verbs match with verbs, gerunds match with gerunds, and so forth.

You could also use an AI grammar checker.

Why Does Parallelism Matter?

Parallelism matters because it keeps the meaning of the sentence clear and helps it flow well. When you write in parallel construction, people know what you mean and can follow your line of thinking. Unequal parts end up being distracting to the reader.

  • List of words that do not have a matching structure
  • Conjunctions that do not correlate
  • Function words that do not match
  • Conjunctions that are not coordinating

Parallelism is also important because it reduces wordiness in your writing. When you write in a parallel structure, you often use fewer words to convey your meaning.

What are the Types of Faulty Parallelism?

There are four places within complex sentences where faulty parallelism can occur. These are:

Examples of Faulty Parallelism in Sentences with Lists

To truly understand faulty parallelism, it is best to look at examples that show this grammatical error. The following sentence is an example of faulty parallelism;

  • Sally likes apples, bananas, oranges and eating cucumbers.

In this example, the list of fruits and vegetables ends with a different construction. While the first three items on the list are nouns, the last one is a verb construction. It should read:

  • Sally likes apples, bananas, oranges and cucumbers.

Or

  • Sally likes eating apples, bananas, oranges and cucumbers.

This example is an obvious one, but sometimes the example is less clear. You may not realize that the parts of speech or terminology are not parallel at first glance. For example:

  • The company is hiring in management, development, sales trainees and human resources professionals.

In this list, the first two items, management, and development, are roles or departments within the company. The last two items, sales trainees and human resources professionals are specific employees. While the part of speech is the same for each, they are still not parallel. Instead, you could say:

  • The company is hiring management professionals, development team members, sales trainees and human resources professionals.

Or:

  • The company is hiring in management, development, sales and human resources.

Stand-Alone Lists

Another place where parallelism matters is when making a list. Correct parallelism means that each item in the list starts with the same part of speech.

Here is an example of a list that has a faulty parallel structure:

In our classroom, we will:

  • Listen to the teacher
  • Always turn in papers on time
  • Giving our best effort

Each of these starts with a different part of speech, including a gerund, verb and adverb. Instead, they should start with the same, as in:

In our classroom we will:

  • Listen to the teacher
  • Turn in papers on time
  • Give our best effort

This second list flows better and makes more sense because it contains parallelism.

Faulty Parallelism with Coordinating Conjunctions

While lists in a sentence or in bulleted format are common places where parallelism is necessary, this is just one grammatical construction that calls for proper parallelism. Another time occurs when you join sentence elements with coordinating conjunctions, such as and, but and or.

If joining two words or phrases with a coordinating conjunction, the words or phrases need to be parallel. For example, if you say:

  • Running and scrapbook creation are my favorite hobbies.

In this sentence, the ground “running” should have a connection with another gerund, but scrapbook creation is not. Instead, you could say:

  • Running and scrapbooking are my favorite hobbies.

This second sentence flows much better and makes more sense because the structure is parallel.

Here is another example:

  • Her research paper highlighted the importance of conservation and helped in creating interest in the topic.

On the surface, this looks like it is parallel because “highlighted” and “helped” are both past-tense verb forms, so it appears to have a similar structure. However, upon revising it, you see that it is not. The first phase, “highlighted the importance of conservation” has a verb and direct object, while the second does not.

Instead, you could say:

  • Her research paper lighted the importance of conservation and created interest in the topic.

This revision is perfectly parallel. Not only do the verbs and verb tenses match, but they have a direct object and preposition phrase following them, so the entire phrase is parallel.

Examples of Faulty Parallelism with Correlative Conjunctions

Correlating conjunctions are:

  • Either/or
  • Neither/nor
  • Both/and
  • Not only/but also
  • Whether/or

When two parts of a sentence connect using one of these conjunction pairs, they need parallelism. Here is an example that lacks parallel form:

  • He not only went to the store, but also gives me back the change from the errand.

In this example, “went” is a past tense verb, while “gives” is present. Instead, it should read:

  • He not only went to the store, but also gave me back the change from the errand.

More Examples of Faulty Parallelism

To better understand this common grammar error, here are some more examples to study:

  • The strategy for learning math well includes reviewing basic facts, working on math literacy and how to solve basic equations

Instead, this should read:

  • The strategy for learning math well includes reviewing basic facts, working on math literacy and solving basic equations

And this example:

  • Samantha traveled to Mexico, Canada and in Guatemala

The addition of the preposition makes this wordy and breaks the parallel structure. Instead, it should read:

  • Samantha traveled to Mexico, Canada and Guatemala

And finally:

  • The virus is usually transmitted through contact with someone who has it, drinking after an infected person or by touching surfaces that haven’t been cleaned

The second item in this series does not follow parallels because it lacks the preposition. Instead, it should read:

  • The virus is usually transmitted through contact with someone who has it, by drinking after an infected person or by touching surfaces that haven’t been cleaned

A Final Word on What Is Faulty Parallelism

Faulty parallelism is a common grammar mistake that may slip through unnoticed. It involves having items in a list or comparison that do not follow the same grammatical structure.

Avoiding faulty parallelism will make your writing stronger and more concise. It also makes it clearer to your reader.

FAQs About What Is Faulty Parallelism?

How can I fix faulty parallelism?

To fix faulty parallelism, make sure that items in a list have the same grammatical structure or wording. This includes using the same part of speech, modifiers, or overall structure.

What is a faulty parallel structure?

A faulty parallel structure occurs when you have two or more items in a list or comparison that do not follow the same grammar structure, creating false parallelism.

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