Faulty Parallelism Exercises With Answers
What is Parallelism?
When writing a list, every item starts with the same type of verb or noun, adjective or adverb format. Examples:
1. "ing" verbs: We went running, biking, swimming, and fishing.
2. "ed" verbs: We walked, jumped and skipped on the way.
3. nouns: We drove to the lake, mountains, desert and beach all in one day.
4. adjective: She had purple, silver-tipped, spiky hair.
5. adverb: Lovingly, graciously and generously, she helped us out.
What is Faulty Parallelism?
Faulty parallelism in a sentence is when you are writing a list of things and mix up verb forms (to run, jumping, played). Example:
- Faulty: Samantha likes to run, jumping around in the backyard and played with her friend Jorge yesterday.
- Correct: Samantha likes running and jumping around in her backyard; in fact, yesterday she played there with her friend Jorge.
Another problem is mixing up a list of nouns and verbs (a ball, to jump, running outside). Example:
- Faulty: Henry likes a ball, to jump and running outside.
- Correct: Henry likes balls and likes jumping and running outside.
Mixed up adjectives or adverb forms can also be a problem:
- Faulty: Grandpa walked carefully, in a slow way, and halted a lot.
- Correct: Grandpa walked carefully, slowly, and haltingly.
Easy Faulty Parallelism Exercises
Re-write the following sentences so that each has a list using the same verb or noun form. Sample answers are below.
- The English teacher spoke in a nasal tone, unpleasantly, but conveying the information clearly and was funny.
- The coach told his players that they should get plenty of water, to not eat sugary snacks, and being sure they are getting plenty of sleep.
- Benefits of coaching include: knowing each player, helping that player to improve and to get to see that person succeed in life.
- At the party, my sister helped us make the cake, gathering the kids for games, clean up, and to drive some kids home.
- Exercises that I enjoy doing are marathon running, to swim lengths in a pool, riding my bicycle in the park, and to walk along the trails in a forest.
- We must either change the laws about drunk driving or it will be necessary to start enforcing them more strictly.
- The protestors were gathering outside, held signs, starting to shout loudly and stopped the speaker from being heard.
- My sister-in-law loves fad diets and has tried: eating only meat, to not eat anything but rice, smoothies every morning while not restricting anything else, and fasting 12 hours a day.
- To my horror, my wedding dress looked stained, torn and it had wrinkles.
- Our latest math instructor was enthusiastic, cracked a lot of jokes, is demanding, and failed half the class.
How to Correct?
There is more than one way to correct the sentences above and that is true for faulty sentences in your own papers. While just changing the faulty verbs is sometimes the answer, sometimes you need to completely re-do the sentence by
- Re-arranging the words.
- Using a semi-colon to make two sentences connected together.
- Putting extra information in parenthesis.
Here are some sample answers to the exercises above with the parallel elements in bold:
- The English teacher had an unpleasant, nasal tone, but conveyed the information clearly and humorously.
- The coach told his players to get plenty of water, not eat sugary snacks and be sure they get plenty of sleep.
- Benefits of coaching include: knowing each player, helping that player improve, and seeing that person succeed in life.
- At the party, my sister helped us make the cake, gathered the kids for games, cleaned up the mess, and drove some kids home.
- Exercises I enjoy doing are running marathons, swimming lengths in a pool, riding my bicycle in the park, and walking along the trails in a forest.
- We must either change the laws about drunk driving or start enforcing them more strictly.
- The protesters gathered outside, held signs, started shouting loudly, and stopped the speaker from being heard.
- My sister-in-law loves fad diets and has tried: eating only meat, consuming nothing but rice, drinking smoothies in the morning (while not restricting anything else), and fasting 12 hours every day.
- To my horror, my wedding dress looked stained, torn, and wrinkled.
- Our latest math instructor was enthusiastic, joking, and demanding; in fact, she failed half of the class.
Noun: a person, place, thing, or idea (examples: John, Dallas, hairbrush, love).
Pronoun: a substitute for the noun (examples: he, she, it, we, they).
Adjective: describes a noun (examples: soft, red, fluffy, interesting).
Verb: action word (examples: sing, drive, run, played).
Adverb: describes the verb and usually ends in "ly" (examples: carefully, abruptly, loudly).
Verb Tenses in English
Past: played, was playing, did play, has played; swam, was swimming, did swim, has swum.
Present: play, is playing, does play; swims, is swimming, does swim.
Future: will play, is going to play; will swim, is going to swim.
Conditional (may or may not): may play, could play, might play, would play; may swim, could swim, might swim, would swim.
Harder Faulty Parallelism Exercises
If you've mastered the easy exercises, try these harder, more complicated sentences:
- Drunk drivers are thoughtless and take the lives of other people in their own hands, risking their own lives, think about only their own pleasure and fun, and never considering the consequence of their actions.
- Police enforcement should be responsible for service in the community by safeguarding the property of people who live in the community, in order to protect the innocent from crimes and to ensure that all people have their constitutional rights getting respect.
- When my husband takes another job in California, I will be staying here in Texas to pack, let the children finish up their school year, fly out to find a house (while my mom comes here to take care of the kids), and begin my new life by driving with all the kids in the car to California while the moving van is taking all of our stuff.
- In order to convey the information correctly to the crowd, the police officer was speaking loudly, he told people where they should be standing, repeating information so they would remember and gesturing.
- My roommate and I this afternoon are going to be eating lunch at my downtown favorite, a pizza place, then until our friend Sandy is out of work we will study in the library, meeting up at the dorm with our sorority sisters from Tri-Delta is our next plan, and then all of us will be eating the gourmet popcorn my mom just sent me and we are planning to binge-watch the latest Netflix episodes of our favorite show.
Sample Answers for Harder Exercises
- Drunk drivers are thoughtlessly taking the lives of other people in their own hands, risking their own lives, thinking only about their own pleasure and fun, and not considering the consequences of their actions.
- Police enforcement is responsible for serving the community, safeguarding the property of people in that community, protecting the innocent from crimes, and ensuring that all people's constitutional rights are respected.
- When my husband takes another job in California, I will fly out to find a house (while my mom comes here to take care of the kids) and then stay in Texas to pack up our house and let the children finish up their school year, then drive to California with all the kids while the moving van takes all of our stuff.
- In order to convey the information correctly, the police officer spoke loudly to the crowd, told people where they should stand, repeated the information to help people remember, and gestured.
This afternoon, my roommate and I are going to eat lunch at my favorite pizza place downtown, study in the library until our friend Sandy is free from work, meet up with our Tri Delta sorority sisters back at our dorm, and binge-watch the latest Netflix episodes of our favorite show while eating the gourmet popcorn my mom just sent me.
What Causes Faulty Paralleism?
Of course, you may read some of those incorrect sentences and think, "why would a person mix those up? They don't make sense!" Most of the time, faulty parallelism is less common with simple sentences (although even my college students make that mistake sometimes!). Generally, the biggest problem comes when people are writing complex sentences with longer phrases in the lists. Here is a typical example:
Faulty: Instead of criticizing the government, people should begin to be involved in the process by making sure they are registered to vote, start petitioning for causes they really believe in, learning about the issues and researching the actual situation in order to learn the impact of legislation, both past and current proposals, on causes they believe in strongly, and by going to meetings for their party representatives so that they can really find out if those people understand and believe in the issues they care about and have the ability to represent those issues clearly and forcefully, working at polling places and registering people to vote.
Confused? Me Too!
I get these sorts of sentences in every set of papers I grade. So if you write sentences like this, you aren't alone. The good news is that when you are writing complicated sentences like this, it means you are thinking complicated thoughts and have lots of good ideas.
However, unless you make sure the reader can understand your ideas, you won't be able to persuade them. That is the reason that correcting this grammar issue is so important! Moreover, your tired instructor may find it a lot easier to put red marks on your paper than really attempt to discover what you are trying to say. Let's face it, when we find something hard to read, most of us just give up and move on.
Sample Revisions of Difficult Sentences
Here are two sample revisions. The first one does a simple list, using "ing" verbs throughout to make sure the list is parallel:
Correct Sample Revision: Instead of criticizing the government, people should get involved in voting in every election, registering others to vote, petitioning for causes they believe in, researching about issues, learning the impact of past legislation, going to meetings for candidates, evaluating the character of people running for office, analyzing whether a candidate can present issues forcefully, and working at polling places to make sure the votes are secure and fair.
Notice in the above sample that I do not use any conjunctions (and, or, but, so, yet) except in the last item (and working at...). If you do use conjunctions in a list, you need to use semicolons in between the items of the list. In fact, I would strongly encourage you do do that! Long lists like the ones above are tedious to read, and you can make a much more interesting sentence. Here is an example:
Correct Sample Revision Using Semicolons: Instead of criticizing the government, people should get involved: making sure they are registered to vote, and registering others; petitioning for causes they believe in; researching about issues to learn the impact of past and current legislation; going to meetings for their party representatives to evaluate the candidate's character as well as how well they can present issues clearly and forcefully; and, finally, working at polling places to make sure the process goes smoothly.
The video below gives a good explanation of how to use semicolons in a list.
How to Proofread for Parallelism
Here are some tips for how to check your own writing for faulty parallelism:
- Look for long sentences. Those are often the ones that have a lot of ideas that may not be written correctly. Mark those to re-read and check.
- Look for lists in your sentences. Circle the first words in each list. Are they the same type of verb, noun, or adjective.
- Read your paper out loud (or ask someone else to read it). If you stumble when reading a sentence, chances are that sentence isn't written as clearly as it could be and may have faulty parallelism.
Questions & Answers
What is the problem with this sentence, "Police dogs are used for finding lost children, tracking criminals, and the detection of bombs and illegal drugs?"
The items in that list are not in parallel format. Here is a revision:
Police dogs are used for finding lost children, tracking criminals and detecting bombs and illegal drugs.Helpful 58
What is the problem with this sentence: "The teacher walked through the door and was looking at the students?"
You want to keep the verbs the same. Either of the following will work:
The teacher walked through the door and looked at the students.
The teacher was walking through the door and looking at the students.Helpful 40
Can you help me with this sentence? "The actress worked as a waitress, a researcher as a ranch hand and also went to college to study medicine for a while."
To put a longer phrase like the part about going to college, it often helps to move that phrase to the beginning of the sentence as an introductory clause. When I think about putting that in the beginning, it makes me consider the contrast and actually makes the sentence more interesting:
"Although she went to college to study medicine for a while, the actress also learned her profession by working as a waitress, a researcher, and a ranch hand."Helpful 38
How can parallelism exercises work with this statement: I like baking and to eat them?
You have a good parallelism exercise here. There are two possible correct ways to write this:
1. I like to bake and eat them.
3. I like baking and eating them.Helpful 30
What is the correct form of this sentence?: "The teacher cannot tell whether an error is caused by ignorance or careless."
Parallelism is not the problem with this sentence because there is no list of three or more items. However, here are some correct ways to write the sentence:
The teacher cannot tell whether the error was caused by ignorance or carelessness.
The teacher could not tell whether the error was caused by ignorance or carelessness.
The teacher can't tell whether the error was because the student was ignorant or careless.Helpful 8