In celebration of National Grammar Day, today’s training comes from NewsU’s most popular course: Cleaning Your Copy.

Can't figure out why a sentence just doesn't sound right. The problem might be a lack of parallel construction. That means each element in a sentence should be treated the same way.

Here's a sentence with parallel construction:

The budget director explained the receipts, the plans and the projected costs.

This really is a list of items, so every one should be treated the same way.

Here's one that doesn't work:

The county board wanted last year's budget and analyzing the next budget cycle.

It's still a list, but the items are treated differently. You can fix it this way: The county board wanted last year's budget and an analysis of the next budget cycle.

Try this one:

After the meeting, she went back to the office, the break room and then to dinner.

To make the items parallel, add the word to before all of the items in the list:

After the meeting, she went back to the office, to the break room and then to dinner.

Taken from Cleaning Your Copy, a self-directed course by Vicki Krueger at Poynter NewsU.

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