Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Parallelism

Faulty:

I hated my girlfriend’s mother, and the requirement to eat three heaping platefuls of turkey made me sick. (shifts from noun object to noun phrase)

Parallel:

I hated my girlfriend’s mother and the requirement to eat three heaping platefuls of turkey.

Faulty:

If I am having sex in Antarctica, then gravitational forces and below-zero temperatures should be taken into consideration. (shifts from active to passive)

Parallel:

If I am having sex in Antarctica, then I should take into consideration gravitational forces and below-zero temperatures.

Faulty:

One day I discovered a box in my father’s bedroom that was small, smooth, and a mystery, and it changed my life forever. (shifts from adjectives to a clause)

Parallel:

One day I discovered a box in my father’s bedroom that was small, smooth, mysterious, and life-changing.

Balance ideas in a series

Faulty:

Wives usually solve boredom with one of the following methods: joining a knitting circle, starting an exercise regimen, seduction of the Con Ed man.

Better:

Wives usually solve boredom with one of the following methods: joining a knitting circle, starting an exercise regimen, seducing the Con Ed man.

Use coordinating conjunctions to balance parallel ideas

Faulty:

The wedded state can either be described as sensual bliss or feeling that you are miserable and stuck in prison.

Better:

The wedded state can either be described as sensual bliss or miserable incarceration.

Use correlative conjunctions to balance parallel ideas

Faulty:

Angelina Jolie not only possesses strong acting skills but she also has fat lips.

Better:

Angelina Jolie not only possesses strong acting skills but also fat lips.

Repeat words to balance parallel ideas

Faulty:

Many daughters torture their parents by dating thugs or through the use of drugs.

Better:

Many daughters torture their parents by dating thugs or by doing drugs.

Fix:

Wile E. Coyote should not only sue the Acme Company for selling him a faulty Acme Rocket Sled but also shoot Road Runner with a .44 Magnum.


Examples of parallelism in Advertising

If you can imagine it, we can get you there.

300 ports of call, 150 countries, 1 address

sensuous, elegant, magical

What moves you? Climbing a mountain, fording a stream, being master of all you survey?

The longer we kissed, the Frencher it got.

Your towels—personally monogrammed
Your bathrobe—pure silk
Your spa products—French lavender

Bring out the skewers, the shrimp, and the only mayo that will make them disappear.

Your life, your car. Connected.

Four wholesome grains. One great-tasting snack

One little serum. Three big results.

Good morning. Your eggs are frying, your bacon is crisp, and you’ve just traveled 400 miles.

Pinot Grigio?
Poached lobster?
Surf lesson?

Two parts luxury, one part flip-flop

A week, a month, a lifetime.
Parallelism problems:

1. Shifted construction

Not good:
I knew she was crazy, sexy, cool, and the wiggling of her hind end thrilled me. (shift in subject).

Better:
She was crazy, sexy, cool, and thrillingly endowed in her hind end.

Not good:
If she wants her brownies just slightly gooey, then flour should be added to stiffen them. (subject and voice shifts)

Better:
If she wants her brownies just slightly gooey, then she should add flour to stiffen the batter.

2. Careless use of correlatives

Wrong:
They indulged either themselves with premeal nibbles or gorged on M&Ms till dawn.

Correct:
They either indulged themselves with premeal nibbles or gorged on M&Ms till dawn.

Fix:

1. She performed flawlessly both because she was well-trained and pumped on steroids.

2. Baked on OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, I learned that there is nothing more painful than getting up in the morning, getting dressed, and I don’t have to mention the experience of the New York City subway system.

3. After playing Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV,  and Gears of War 2, Zar ran naked from the house, ran screaming down Broadway, and five restaurants.

4. At Big Momma’s house, leaving the toilet seat up and result in a beat-down or even dying.

5. Most girls are trying to date me they hope I’ll give them my phone number.

6. I would rather chew ground glass than reading another Harry Potter book.

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Faulty Comparisons

Incomparable terms

Do not compare items that are incomparable.

Wrong: The girls of Manhattan are far sexier than Brooklyn.
(We do not want to compare girls with a borough)

Right: The girls of Manhattan are far sexier than those in the Bronx.

(Now we are comparing one group of girls with a pronoun—“those”—representing another group of girls).

Make sure the meaning is complete:

Wrong: I love French fries more than you.
Right: I love French fries more than I love you.

Or: I love French fries more than you love crystal meth.
french-fries.jpg

Fix:
1. The number of abandoned children in Queens is higher than the rest of the city.

2. Britney gave me more than Kevin.

3. Mini cream-filled bon bons thrill me as much as bums who suck crack pipes in the basements of abandoned buildings.

Incomplete comparisons

Wrong: Donna kissed me better than Karen.

Right: Donna kissed me better than Karen did

Right: Donna kissed me better than she kissed Karen

Fix:

1. Bobo is smarter.

2. Dr. Jackson is richer.

3. Our love for cheating on each other is as great as the big coconut layer cake shimmering with eat-me whiteness on the top shelf of our Sub-zero refrigerator.

coconutcake.jpg

Emphasis

Isolation.

Isolating a short sentence either at the beginning or end of a paragraph can be an effective use of emphasis:

Spurred by the kidnapper’s note, we grabbed shovels and took the train to Woodlawn Cemetery in Queens. We arrived, hoping that despite being buried for ten days with only Gatorade and Wonder Bread for sustenance, she would still be alive. She wasn’t.

Position:

Without emphasis:

My youngest sister Nina is the demon seed to me, but to my parents she is an angel.

With Emphasis:

To my parents, Nina is an angel; to me, she is the demon seed.

“I love Christmas,” says Shmulee. “It’s so…Jewish.”

Nothing says I love your cooking like a bucketful of vomit.

My mother’s new boyfriend was as handsome as a prince and as faithful as a rabbit.

Repetition:

Although sometimes monotonous, repetition can build emphasis.

I did not trust the teeny-weeny robot. I did not trust how he whistled when he rolled on silent wheels beneath the couch. I did not trust his smile when he told us he had been out all night searching for loose change that he would donate to The Home for Old Robots, his favorite charity. Above all, I did not trust his explanation for stringing wire across the sidewalk between 79th and 80th Streets, wire that sent a businessman in a silk, pin-striped suit sprawling face first into a steaming pile of dog shit.
son-of-sam.jpg
(excerpt from Son of Sam’s note to The Daily News)

Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed on the dried blood of the dead that has settled into these cracks.

Fragments and Run-ons

two-scoops.jpg

Fragments and Run-ons

A sentence fragment, or incomplete sentence, is not a sentence, though sometimes it looks like one.

On Christmas morning, when she came to my room to wake me with a delectable slice of cheesecake and two scoops of vanilla ice cream. She wore a big smile.

Viewed alone, the fragment is easier to spot:

On Christmas morning, when she came to my room to wake me with a delectable slice of cheesecake and two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Fragments are incomplete sentences. To tell if a sentence is incomplete—if it lacks a subject, for example—examine it outside of its paragraph.

Example:

As was the case with the aromatic sauna. everyone in there stared helplessly at the brilliant brunette. Even scientific Cinderella.

Here are the sentences alone:

As was the case with the aromatic sauna.
Everyone in there stared helplessly at the brilliant brunette.
Even scientific Cinderella.

Some sentences are so long, by the time we get to the end, we are unable to see
their incompleteness.

The starved Gazillionaire, having gulped two glassfuls of the cloyingly sweet
Nestles Quick, having done battle with the buttery basket of bagels, and having
tasted fresh-whipped cream as soft as a kiss.

Do not confuse a participial phrase with a complete sentence. (A participial phrase includes the participle and the object of the participle or any words modified by or related to the participle.

Benny, shaking like jelly as he walked to and from school each day, through
wind and rain.

Sentences without subjects are often incomplete:

Eating both the wrapper and the candy. Rebecca did that a lot.

Exercises. Sentence fragments
1. Bink Hammerstrom, wearing his loud new cowboy boots, which he purchased with his last paycheck.
2. It is wrong to kill another human being. Except Yankee fans.
3. Growing up with a mom who wears a thong is hard for a young person. Especially when she also dons a tutu.
4. Corey once licked the lobe of her ear. A gesture that earned him a brutal face-slap.
5. She is a fine woman. Someone you can depend on. No matter how many Celine Dion records she owns.
6. She also sent my friend Debra the same thing. Which had Debra’s mother frothing at the mouth.
7. I hated my neighborhood. Due to a confrontation over loud music with a head-case named Charles who lived in the basement of his apartment building.
8. There would have been no divorce. If it hadn’t been for my older brother Kareem, who happened to walk in and catch my father.
9. It turns out that Saul and his girlfriend were offered money. And were moved into a witness protection program for testifying against Dag.
10. If they are unhappy in their marriages, they will have a temporarily joyful fling. Like Myrtle who looked to Tom as a way to escape her husband.

Run-on Sentences.

Run-on sentences are improperly joined independent clauses. An independent clause is a group of words that could stand alone as a sentence. When you’ve got two independent clauses in the same sentence, you must join them, with a coordinating conjunction or a semi-colon. There are two kinds of run-ons: a fused sentence (when two independent clauses run together without punctuation), and a comma splice (when two independent clauses are joined with a comma.

A fused sentence:

I kissed her neck I spilt my drink in her lap.

Fix #1:

I kissed her neck, and I spilt my drink in her lap.

Fix #2:

I kissed her neck; I spilt my drink in her lap.

A comma splice:

In the fall, ducks fly south, I go to Macy’s.

Fix #1:

In the fall, ducks fly south; I go to Macy’s.

Fix # 2:

In the fall, ducks fly south, and I go to Macy’s.

Examples:
1. There was one reason my head got stuck, someone had painted the wall with glue.

2. I’m going to count to three, and if you’re not doing homework I call off your birthday party okay, I’m going to count to three again.