Each Thing Must Be the Same

Do you remember the old Sesame Street shows? I grew up singing that song that asks “Which of these things doesn’t belong?” When you are listing a number of things in sequence in a sentence, be careful of faulty parallelism. I see this a lot. If you “list” three things in parallel construction, make sure each element is the same kind. Sometimes “one of these things just doesn’t belong.”

Wrong:
“I ate potatoes, apples, then dug in the garden.”

Correct:
“I ate potatoes, ate apples, then dug in the garden.” Or “I ate potatoes and apples, then went outside and dug in the garden.” (You need a verb to go along with each object.) The way to check your parallelism is to restate the sentence with the first part of the phrase matching each part: “I ate potatoes. I ate apples. I dug in the garden.” The word I starts each phrase.

Wrong:
“She likes singing, dancing, and to play the violin.”

Correct:
“She likes singing, dancing, and playing the violin.” (Each word in the sentence has to be in the same form. Another way you could rewrite that would be “She likes to sing, dance, and play the violin,” as the word to fits with each verb.)

Wrong:
“I like to eat chocolate, playing card games, and riddles.”

Correct:
“I like to eat chocolate, play card games, and tell riddles.”

One Response to “Each Thing Must Be the Same”

  1. Diane Stephenson March 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Great advice. It makes reading so much easier when you get it right. I have read odd sentences that sometimes I have had to go over a few times to make any sense out of it at all. I like the way you have explained this with your examples.

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