Unparallel Structure

Writers, in an attempt to be efficient, often use unparallel structure in their sentences. Consider the following:

1. Using communication theory, sport literature, and drawing on the authors' own rich experiences as sport communication professionals, Strategic Sport Communication introduces readers to all aspects of the sport communication industry.

2. Pedersen lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he enjoys jogging, date nights with his wife, Jennifer, and spending time with their four children, Hallie, Zack, Brock, and Carlie.


The problem with these sentences is that the same part of speech is not used in each item in each list. Think of grammar as math, specifically the property of distribution. In math, an example of distribution is 5(2 x 6) = 60. The 5 is distributed to both the 2 and the 6. The same is true in grammar. If we test the first example by using the property of distribution (the verb using as the distributed element), we find that it doesn't calculate correctly:

Using communication theory, using sport literature, and using drawing on the authors' own rich experiences as sport communication professionals, Strategic Sport Communication introduces readers to all aspects of the sport communication industry.

The second example has a list of nouns, but they're not all in the same format. Two of the nouns are gerunds (jogging and spending time), but the other one isn't. This sentence requires a slightly more creative edit. Here are edits for parallel structure:

1. Using communication theory and sport literature and drawing on the authors' own rich experiences as sport communication professionals, Strategic Sport Communication introduces readers to all aspects of the sport communication industry. (Here, a simple edit involves getting rid of the comma after communication theory and sticking an and after that phrase and after sport literature. Now it's parallel in structure.)

2. Pedersen lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he enjoys jogging and spending time with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children, Hallie, Zack, Brock, and Carlie. (This edit involves more of a substantive edit. Spending time and date nights are essentially synonymous, so the phrases can be changed structurally to reflect that.)