Understanding Parallel Structure in Sentence Construction

A lack of parallel structure in sentence construction can lead to confusion. Make sure statements are built correctly to convey the intended meaning, as explained and demonstrated in the discussions to and revisions of the following sentences.

  1. The poll found that 24 percent of voters said they would either abstain from voting in the general election rather than vote for Trump or Clinton or vote for a third-party candidate.

The meaning of this sentence is ambiguous. As written, it implies that 24 percent of voters would vote neither for Trump or Clinton nor for a third-party candidate, but it could mean that 24 percent of voters would either abstain from voting or would vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton. If this is the case, the wording should be “The poll found that 24 percent of voters said they would either abstain from voting in the general election rather than vote for Trump or Clinton or would vote for a third-party candidate.”

  1. The act requires the removal of any personally identifiable information not relevant to threat identification or protected by privacy laws.

As written, this sentence implies that not applies both to “relevant to threat identification” and to “protected by privacy laws.” However, the removal requirement applies to information that is not relevant or that is protected, so the language should emphasize this distinction: “The act requires the removal of any personally identifiable information that is not relevant to threat identification or that is protected by privacy laws.”

  1. You will learn a new method for weight loss without neglecting your work or rearing your children.

The implication of this sentence is that the new weight-loss method will not require one to neglect one’s work and will absolve one of the chore of rearing one’s children. But the meaning is that adopting the method will not affect one’s abilities to work or to raise children, and the wording should reflect that meaning: “You will learn a new method for weight loss without neglecting your work or your parental responsibilities” is one possible revision.

From: Daily Writing Tips, May 9, 2016

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