Parallel Structure: Parallel structure I

September 8, 2005: Issue 104

Always keep items in a list parallel, whether they’re in a series of bullets or in a compound noun or verb phrase. That means each item should be the same part or parts of speech—all prepositional phrases, all adjectives, etc.

incorrect: The couple had three goals for their new kitchen: to move around more easily, getting more light, and better storage.
correct: The couple had three goals for their new kitchen: easier mobility, more light, and better storage.

incorrect: Pauline offers these tips for dividing an open, loftlike space:
• Lay rugs to establish borders.
• Set up folding screens.
• Wall color can help delineate areas, too.
correct: Pauline offers these tips for dividing an open, loftlike space:
• Lay rugs to establish borders.
• Set up folding screens.
• Change wall colors.

incorrect: By the end of the project the bathroom was bigger, airier, and had been organized much better.
correct: By the end of the project the bathroom was bigger, airier, and better organized.

If you’re having trouble making items parallel, break up the series.

incorrect: By the end of the project the bathroom was bigger, airier, and had been organized much better.
correct: By the end of the project the bathroom was bigger and airier, and it had been organized much better.

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