The hunt for faulty par­al­lel par­al­lel­ism con­tin­ues

Sunday Observer - - FEATURES -

can see the gram­mat­i­cal im­bal­ance be­tween the two el­e­ments which are joined by the co­or­di­nat­ing con­junc­tion, “or,” to wit, “vol­un­tar­ily” and “by force.” The for­mer el­e­ment is one word, an ad­verb, whereas the sec­ond is a phrase of two words, a prepo­si­tion and a noun.

Good gram­mar re­quires log­i­cally re­lated el­e­ments in a sen­tence to be equal, bal­anced, or par­al­lel. There­fore, we should re­vise the sen­tence by mak­ing both el­e­ments ad­verbs, thus: “The Sun­day Times has learnt that ANC MPs serv­ing on par­lia­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions port­fo­lio com­mit­tee are mo­bil­is­ing for Ngubane’s de­par­ture – ei­ther VOL­UN­TAR­ILY or FORCIBLY.”

From two el­e­ments that are not par­al­lel to three: “Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ten­ure, so far, has been rel­a­tively unin­spir­ing, scan­dalous and en­tirely de­void of any large-scale achieve­ments.” This is the open­ing sen­tence of an opinion piece in The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent with the ti­tle, “An unin­spir­ing mind­set un­masked.” Here are the three el­e­ments that are re­lated in that sen­tence, with the one caus­ing the prob­lem in cap­i­tal let­ters:: “unin­spir­ing,” “scan­dalous,” and EN­TIRELY DE­VOID OF ANY LARGE-SCALE ACHIEVE­MENTS.Two ad­jec­tives are cer­tainly not equal with a phrase of six words.

To rid the sen­tence of the faulty par­al­lel­ism, we need to find an adjective that would re­place the phrase. This is a rather tough task, isn’t it? And if you ask me, I’d hazard a guess that the writer re­sorted to that phrase be­cause he could not read­ily find one word - one adjective - that could cap­ture what he was able to ex­press with those six words.

You may not find this adjective ad­e­quate, but it does en­able us to re­move the faulty par­al­lel­ism, ren­der­ing the sen­tence gram- mat­i­cally cor­rect: “Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ten­ure, so far, has been rel­a­tively UNIN­SPIR­ING, SCAN­DALOUS and UN­PRO­DUC­TIVE.”MAYOR WARNS AGAINST LEAK­ING IN­FOR­MA­TION is the head­line of a news story in the times of Swazi­land, May 10, 2016. The sec­ond para­graph of the story is a sen­tence that fea­tures three el­e­ments. Read it closely and tell me what is amiss: “The mayor, who fell short of di­rectly point­ing fin­gers at those coun­cil­lors he sus­pected, de­scribed the in­ci­dents of in­for­ma­tion leak­age as very un­for­tu­nate, child­ish and tan­ta­mount to steal­ing.”

Oh oh, can you see that? Of the three el­e­ments that are sup­posed to be in equi­lib­rium, the third one is faulty. That’s right! Whereas the first two el­e­ments, “un­for­tu­nate” and “child­ish,” are ad­jec­tives, the last el­e­ment, “tan­ta­mount to steal­ing,” is not an adjective. This makes the sen­tence a vic­tim of faulty par­al­lel­ism.

To cor­rect the er­ror, we need to sub­sti­tute an adjective for the phrase, “tan­ta­mount to steal­ing.” For want of a bet­ter word, let us re­vise the sen­tence, thus: “The mayor, who fell short of di­rectly point­ing fin­gers at those coun­cil­lors he sus­pected, de­scribed the in­ci­dents of in­for­ma­tion leak­age as very un­for­tu­nate, child­ish and thievish.”

Given the correction we have just ef­fected, I am sure you can spot the faulty par­al­lel­ism in the fol­low­ing sen­tence, eas­ily. “John F. Kennedy, whose charisma, drive and sunny out­look ex­hil­a­rated the pub­lic, in­still­ing a new Amer­i­can ide­al­ism, would have turned 100 last Mon­day.” This is the open­ing para­graph of an opinion piece ti­tled, “Trump’s dis­dain for Europe only strength­ens JFK nos­tal­gia” – Sun­day Times, June 4, 2017. Like the case that pre­ceded it, the sen­tence now un­der our spot­light has three ele- ments that are sup­posed to be in equi­lib­rium – a state of bal­ance. The three el­e­ments are “charisma,” “drive,” and SUNNY OUT­LOOK.See, the first and sec­ond el­e­ments are nouns, whereas, the third el­e­ment is a noun qual­i­fied by an adjective, hence they do not con­sti­tute a par­al­lel con­struc­tion make. Per­force, the el­e­ments have to be bal­anced to rid the sen­tence of the faulty par­al­lel­ism.

Again, the word we sup­ply may not sit well with you, but be­ing a noun, it does the job of bal­anc­ing the el­e­ments, per­fectly. Here is the re­vised sen­tence: “John F. Kennedy, whose charisma, drive and PANACHE ex­hil­a­rated the pub­lic, in­still­ing a new Amer­i­can ide­al­ism, would have turned 100 last Mon­day.”

The first editorial of the Sowe­tan, Novem­ber 24, 2015, was ti­tled, “Do not stop whistle­blow­ing.” The fifth para­graph is one which may be char­ac­terised as dou­ble trou­ble, for it con­tains two sets of el­e­ments that are sup­posed the bal­anced, but which are not.

To make it easy for you to de­tect the er­ror in the first set of el­e­ments, we have cap­i­talised the first set of el­e­ments. The para­graph reads: “Be­cause by ex­pos­ing COR­RUP­TION and THE FLOUT­ING OF RULES, they safe­guard the state from rep­u­ta­tional dam­age and the wastage and loss of pub­lic funds.” The nu­mer­i­cal im­bal­ance in the el­e­ments is glar­ing: One word ver­sus four. The first el­e­ment is word, specif­i­cally, a noun, whereas the sec­ond el­e­ment is a phrase, com­pris­ing an ar­ti­cle, a par­tici­ple, a prepo­si­tion, and a noun. What we need to do here is sim­ple.

Find one noun to re­place the four-word phrase, so that the two el­e­ments which are joined by the co­or­di­nat­ing con­junc­tion would be par­al­lel: Noun to noun! Ac­cord­ingly, the first set of el­e­ments in the sen­tence may be re­vised, thus: “Be­cause by ex­pos­ing COR­RUP­TION and IN­DIS­CI­PLINE, they safe­guard the state from rep­u­ta­tional dam­age and the wastage and loss of pub­lic funds.”

That leaves us with the sec­ond set of el­e­ments, that is, “rep­u­ta­tional dam­age” and “the wastage and loss of pub­lic funds.” As you can see, th­ese two con­struc­tions are not equal, nu­mer­i­cally or oth­er­wise. Com­pared to the two non-par­al­lel el­e­ments pre­ced­ing them, this pair is much more dif­fi­cult to re­con­struct. How­ever, let us try to re­vise the sen­tence, as a whole, this way: “Be­cause by ex­pos­ing COR­RUP­TION and IN­DIS­CI­PLINE, they safe­guard the state from REP­U­TA­TIONAL DAM­AGE and FI­NAN­CIAL WASTAGE.” Don’t ask me what “rep­u­ta­tional dam­age” means, though, be­cause, hon­estly, I do not know!

“Find a so­lu­tion to fi­nan­cial chal­lenge” is the ti­tle of the first editorial in the Times of Swazi­land, Oc­to­ber 16, 2017. Its open­ing sen­tence reads: “Once again our gov­ern­ment is fac­ing the chal­lenge of BE­ING BROKE and DE­PENDS mostly on col­lec­tions from the Swazi­land Rev­enue Author­ity (SRA) and this is not hap­pen­ing for the first time.”

As you can see, the chal­lenge fac­ing you and me right now is to bal­ance those two el­e­ments, BE­ING BROKE and DE­PENDS, so that the sen­tence may be cured of this faulty par­al­lel­ism. You can do that, I am ab­so­lutely sure! Any­way, in case you want to cross­check what you have done with my own, this is how I have tried to re­vise the sen­tence: “Once again our gov­ern­ment is fac­ing the chal­lenge of BE­ING BROKE and DE­PEN­DENT, mostly, on col­lec­tions from the Swazi­land Rev­enue Author­ity (SRA) and this is not hap­pen­ing for the first time.”

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