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Parallel Structure and the New Samsung Propel

On Saturday I bought a new Samsung Propel mobile phone. As someone over 40, I love reading the manual to learn about the phone. My behavior contrasts with that of my 14-year-old daughter, who got a new phone on Saturday too. She just uses her new LG Vu phone. She doesn't need a manual. 

The Propel's manual is written and indexed well. It does have one error in it, though. See if you can find the error in this sentence:

"Your phone is lightweight, easy to use and offers many significant features."

The error isn't the absence of a comma before the word and. That comma is optional.

The problem is the lack of parallel structure. With parallel structure, or parallelism, the items in a series are all structured the same–all in the same form. These are not the same:

  • lightweight
  • easy to use
  • offers

Lightweight and easy to use are both adjectives, but offers is a verb.

Here's a corrected version:

"Your phone is lightweight, easy to use, and full of features."

The corrected series has three adjectives:

  • lightweight
  • easy to use
  • full

Sentences that aren't parallel throw readers off track, as does other fuzzy writing. "How to Defuzz Your Writing" is the subject of the latest issue of Better Writing at Work, my free monthly e-newsletter. To receive practical business writing tips each month, subscribe here.

In any case, my new phone is lightweight, easy to use, and full of features. Soon I will actually be using the features rather than reading and writing about the manual!

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

7 comments on “Parallel Structure and the New Samsung Propel”

  • “full of features” sounds strange.

    What about:

    “Your phone is lightweight, easy to use, with many significant features.”

  • Yes, I have experienced this many times.

    I have a question. Do the non-writers experience have the same reading pattern as we writers/editors do?

    Dr. Rajalakshmi

  • Peter, I would like your first revision if you would replace the first comma with the word “and.”

    In the second sentence, “while being” feels heavy. Would you consider replacing that phrase with “and is”?

    You did not like my “full of features.” How about “feature-filled”?

    We can’t please everyone, but we can enjoy trying!


  • Dr. Rajalakshmi, I do not understand your question yet. Are you wondering whether non-writers react the same way we do to lack of parallel structure?

    Finding the answer to that question would be an interesting research project.

  • Parallel structure is pleasing to the eye and to the brain. If it were not so, we English teachers would curl up and blow away.

  • I love the phone that you’ve got. Samsung are one of the best phones i’ve ever had. They last for a very long time, and the resolution is good. You can definitely use the features, and still best to read the manual first.

Comments are closed.