Welcome to your GrammarBook.com E-Newsletter.
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An Unparalleled Letdown
Bad grammar weakens good writing, but some bad writing is grammatically flawless. Today we’ll discuss parallel structure and show
how faulty parallelism can ruin a sentence without breaking any rules of grammar.
Self-editing is part of writing. We could write I wrote the letter. I signed the letter. I sent the letter. But we discover at an early age that
we don’t need three sentences. Instead, we compress the information into one sentence: I wrote, signed, and sent the letter.
That’s where parallelism comes in. When two or more elements (wrote, signed, sent) are given equal consideration
in the context of a sentence, they should be as similar as possible: wrote, signed, and sent are all active verbs in the past
tense, giving the sentence parallel structure. That is what makes I wrote, signed, and sent the letter simple, direct, and clear.
Now consider this rickety sentence: She lost her agent, publisher, and her books weren’t selling. That’s like saying She lost A, B, and 3; what happened to C? This is verbal bait-and-switch. The reader expects another noun after agent and publisher, and feels cheated when the third element is a clause instead. Why not rewrite the sentence with two independent clauses: She lost her agent and publisher, and her books weren’t selling.
A different kind of faulty parallelism: On my vacation, I want to sit back, relax, and to have fun. To keep things parallel, either remove the
second to and say I want to sit back, relax, and have fun, or put to in front of all the verbs: I want to sit back, to relax, and to have fun.
Here’s a mistake you see all the time: DeWayne is as smart or smarter than Hank. Did you catch it? As it stands, the sentence states DeWayne is as smart than Hank, or smarter. Make it DeWayne is as smart as or smarter than Hank.
We close with this monstrosity: “The five-bedroom estate home features distinct architectural finishes, wraparound terraces with eastern-
and western-facing views, and is near downtown Lafayette.”
The writer has us anticipating a third noun to go with “finishes” and “terraces.” So how about something like “and an ideal location just
minutes from downtown Lafayette.” When we read instead the feeble “and is near downtown Lafayette,” we almost feel betrayed.
Because of the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's “Grammar Blog.”
See if you can fix these sentences’ faulty parallelism.
1. I have earned two degrees, entered the health care field, and have lost forty pounds.
2. I wasn’t informed or interested in the offer.
3. Juanita is proud of her painting and how well she writes.
Revised and Expanded Eleventh Edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation Now Available.
Good news: As a result of the excellent response from our readers to the pre-publication discount offer, the publisher is extending the offer until August 30! If you live in the United States or Canada, order the new edition of The Blue Book
through Wiley.com and get 30 percent off and FREE shipping. Simply go to bit.ly/1996hkA and use discount code E9X4AYY.
For those of you who live outside the U.S. and Canada, although the publisher is not able to offer free shipping, you will get 35 percent off to help offset your shipping costs. Simply go to bit.ly/1996hkA and use discount code E9X4A.
With our best wishes for good grammar,
The team at GrammarBook.com
Congratulations to Cindy Frye of City magazine, Long Beach City College, Long Beach, California, whose endorsement was chosen by the publisher, Jossey-Bass, to appear on the back cover of the new edition. Your complimentary copy is on its way, Cindy. Thank you!
Even though the endorsements sent in by many other loyal readers were not selected, we do want to thank you for taking the time to send in your endorsements. We really appreciated it.
A Message from Our Friend the Grammar Girl
Mignon Fogarty (better known as Grammar Girl) has always imagined that pet peeves are little monsters like the Loony Toons Tasmanian Devil who revel in annoying lovers of the English language. Now, she's bringing those peeves to life in a card game called Peeve Wars.
Peeve Wars is a card game for 2 to 4 players and is appropriate for people of all ages. You start with a full deck of cards made up of 15 peeves and 3 grammar heroes who can defend against the peeves, and you use the peeve cards to amass an army to annoy your opponent(s) to death. You start with 3 cool points, but each time an opponent successfully annoys you, you lose a cool. When you completely lose your cool, you lose the game.
Visit her game site today to learn more, contribute, and get the game for yourself.
Changes Coming to Our GrammarBook.com Website
We want to alert all of our loyal newsletter readers and visitors to our website that we will soon begin updating the English Rules section of GrammarBook.com to reflect the contents of the eleventh edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. These revisions will take place over the next couple of months.
We researched the leading reference books on American English grammar and punctuation including The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, Fowler's Modern English Usage, Bernstein's The Careful Writer, and many others. As before, we will provide rules, guidance, and examples based on areas of general agreement among these authorities. Where the authorities differ, we will emphasize guidance and provide options to follow based on your purpose in writing, with this general advice: be consistent.
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Every year, English teachers across the U.S. can submit their collections of amusing similes and metaphors found in high school essays. Here's a selection of the best:
He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.
Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
Shots rang out, as shots are known to do.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. I have earned two degrees, entered the health care field, and lost forty pounds. (OR have earned, have entered, have lost)
2. I wasn’t informed about or interested in the offer. (OR I wasn’t informed of or interested in the offer.)
3. Juanita is proud of her painting and her writing. (OR She is proud of how well she paints and writes.)
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.