One of the most com­mon gram­mat­i­cal errors I see on the web is faulty par­al­lelism. I assume most writ­ers are not even aware of the error. Faulty par­al­lelism exists when two poten­tial­ly relat­ed actions dif­fer in struc­ture.

Let me illus­trate.

I enjoy read­ing books, going for walks, and pho­tog­ra­phy.

In this sen­tence, we read 3 items the sub­ject enjoys:

  • Read­ing books
  • Going for walks
  • Pho­tog­ra­phy

You prob­a­bly noticed the dif­fer­ence between the first two and the last one, the last one being a noun and the oth­ers being spe­cif­ic actions.

To make this a bet­ter sen­tence, we would struc­ture all three hob­bies sim­i­lar­ly. Here is one way we could be rewrite this sen­tence.

I enjoy read­ing books, going for walks, and tak­ing pho­tographs.

This idea does not apply to just lists, how­ev­er.

Jon not only can­celled the meet­ing, but also he was skip­ping out on work.

Here, the cor­rel­a­tive con­junc­tion of “not only … but also” requires par­al­lel forms for the thoughts it joins. The first thought uses the sim­ple past tense while the sec­ond thought uses the past pro­gres­sive tense. Since we use the past pro­gres­sive tense to describe events that were just about to occur when a new event hap­pened, we should rewrite the sen­tence as fol­lows:

Jon not only can­celled the meet­ing, but also he skipped out on work.

If the past pro­gres­sive tense is impor­tant to keep, you could also rewrite it with­out the cor­rel­a­tive con­junc­tion.

Jon was plan­ning to skip out of work when he can­celled the meet­ing.

Of all the com­mon gram­mat­i­cal errors, faulty par­al­lelism is prob­a­bly one of the eas­i­est to cor­rect.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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