What is Faulty Parallelism? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 What Is Parallelism?
  • 1:13 How Does It Become Faulty?
  • 2:24 Examples
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

Faulty parallelism in writing can happen when using lists or pairs of words and phrases. Words or phrases should match in structure and format to avoid faulty parallelism and choppy writing. Learn more in this lesson.

What Is Parallelism?

If you know what parallel lines in geometry terms are, then you have a good idea of what parallelism means in writing. In math, parallel lines are a set of lines that do not touch or meet. In terms of grammar, parallelism is a pair or a series of related words or phrases. Just like parallel lines, words or phrases using a parallelism should be related and similar, but they should not overlap or intersect.

When using parallelism, it's important that the words in the pair or the list have the same form. For example, nouns go with nouns, infinitive forms go with infinitive forms, and so on. Keep your terms parallel: you don't want a noun to cross over and be mixed with a verb. Parallelism can help the reader understand what you are saying and make your writing flow.

Here is a simple example using parallelism with nouns:

  • Charles packed his pencils, pens, and notebooks in his backpack.

And another where each item ends in '-ing:'

  • Terrance went hiking, swimming, and zip-lining on his camping trip.

How Does It Become Faulty?

Faulty parallelism happens when the parts of your series do not follow the same structure or format. Here's an example using the sentence about Charles:

  • Charles packed his pencils, pens, and put his notebooks in his backpack.

Adding the verb 'put' breaks up the flow of the sentence and makes it confusing and choppy. Instead of having a series with three nouns, the sentence now has two nouns followed by a verb.

If your writing has a series of phrases, the phrases should have a similar structure. For example:

  • Staying active is an important part of being healthy, being happy, and weight loss.

The first two phrases in the series follow the same structure ('-ing' verb), but the last one is a noun (weight loss). You could easily rewrite the sentence so that each phrase follows a similar structure:

  • Staying active is an important part of being healthy, being happy, and losing weight.

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