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Simple Words, Fancy Label
Whether you realize it or not, you’re well acquainted with correlative conjunctions. It’s a lofty term for phrases people say
every day. The most common correlative conjunctions include either … or,
neither … nor, not only … but also,
and both … and. Here is a list of other familiar ones:
• whether … or
• rather … than
• as many … as
• just as … so
• hardly (or scarcely) … when
• no sooner … than
• what with … and
People constantly mishandle correlative conjunctions. This is due to faulty parallelism, which we discussed last week. Look at these
• Either you’re with me or against me.
• She not only invited us in but she also cooked dinner.
• He was both happy about the promotion and he was nervous about it.
All three are flawed.
You’ll notice that the sentences each contain two sections. The second section should parallel the first one as closely as possible. However, in the
first example, Either is followed by a complete sentence (you’re with me), but or is followed only by a phrase (against me). That is a classic case of faulty parallelism.
To fix it, we could add a second you’re to the or section: Either you’re with me or you’re against me. Another option is to place you’re in front of the entire either-or
construction: You’re either with me or against me. When we do this, You’re governs both the either and the or parts, and both parts consist of prepositional phrases (with me, against me). That makes a clear, balanced sentence.
Let’s home in on the second example. Since She precedes the entire correlative conjunction (not only … but also), She
affects both parts equally, making the second she unnecessary: She not only invited us in but also cooked dinner. Our other choice is to
rewrite the first part to match the second: Not only did she invite us in but she also cooked dinner.
On to the final one. Removing the second he was gives us He was both happy about the promotion and nervous about it. Note that each
component now features an adjective (happy, nervous), a preposition (about), and a noun (promotion, it). You
can’t get more parallel than that. But we can do even better: He was both happy and nervous about the promotion.
There’s no avoiding sentences with correlative conjunctions. Making sure they are parallel lends clarity and style to speech and writing.
Because of the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's “Grammar Blog.”
Are these sentences parallel? If not, can you fix them?
1. Not only am I angry but disappointed.
2. The book both fascinated me and it taught me a good lesson.
3. She’d rather stay at home than to go out.
4. I had hardly left when you arrived.
5. He’s either going today or he’ll be going tomorrow.
Three years ago, I had the sad duty to inform our readers that Jane Straus had passed away on February 25, 2011, after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Jane was the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, founder of the GrammarBook.com website, and creator of the free weekly e-newsletter. She was a visionary and we miss her greatly.
Even though Jane’s Blue Book was a highly regarded reference book available for sale in bookstores and on the Internet, she insisted that all the rules and examples, as well as practice quizzes, be available on the website for all persons desiring to improve their grammar and punctuation skills. She started the Grammar Blog section of the website, where she answered every question posed by readers. And, she hoped that the grammar tips contained in each e-newsletter would help people improve their grammar by focusing on one topic each week.
At this time of remembrance, I want to reaffirm my commitment to continuing Jane’s legacy by maintaining the website; issuing weekly e-newsletters; and answering your questions in, as much as possible, the same light, direct, and instructive tone that Jane used.
Please join me in taking a moment to remember and honor Jane Straus.
—Lester Kaufman, Jane’s husband and partner for 25 years
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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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 two to four players and is appropriate for people of all ages. You start with a full deck of cards made up of fifteen peeves and three 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 three 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.
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:
The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. I am not only angry but disappointed. OR Not only am I angry but I am disappointed.
2. The book both fascinated me and taught me a good lesson.
3. She’d rather stay at home than go out.
4. Hardly had I left when you arrived.
5. He’s either going today or going tomorrow. OR Either he’s going today or he’ll be going
tomorrow. OR He’s going either today or tomorrow.
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.