16 Oct 2012

SAT Grammar: Learn parallelism to perfect your score… part 1!

February inspired me to write a tutorial on fixing dangling modifiers in the SAT Writing section. In honor of October, I want to address the problem of parallelism.

SAT Writing loves to test your knowledge of parallelism. The section loves it so much, in fact, that it tests parallelism in three different forms! For SAT Writing, you need to know how to use parallelism when writing lists, making comparisons, and when using word pairs (e.g., “not only… but also…”). In this blog entry, I will focus on the rules of parallelism for writing lists. I will address the others in blog entries to come.

List parallelism questions come up most often in the Error Identification portion of the Writing test. However, you may run into them in the Improving Sentences portion too.

What is parallelism? Parallelism is a grammatical principle invoked to maintain balance within a sentence. In grammar, parallelism basically means that similar words, phrases, and clauses must take the same form. Confused? Let’s move on to an example…

I like reading, sleeping and to make art.

This is a pretty friendly sentence: it’s direct and tells us a little bit about what the author likes! Only trouble is that the items in this list aren’t in parallel form. Corrected:

I like reading, sleeping and making art.

Or:

I like to read, to sleep and to make art.

Either correction to this sentence is great. It does not matter if we present our hobbies as a series of verbs that end in “ing” (gerunds), or as a list of “to + verbs” (infinitives). All that matters is that we pick one form at the beginning, and stick with it throughout the list.

For the sake of practice, let’s look at a few more examples of good/bad parallelism. After that, we’ll go through a hard-level question from a real SAT.

Bad Parallelism!
Before the SAT, you should eat a healthy breakfast, sleep adequately, and don’t forget your admission ticket!

Good Parallelism!
Before the SAT, you should eat a healthy breakfast, get adequate sleep, and remember your admission ticket!

Bad Parallelism:
As soon as Katrina gets home, she studies biology, bakes cookies, and then she will play basketball.

Good Parallelism!
As soon as Katrina gets home, she studies biology, bakes cookies, and plays basketball.

Bad Parallelism!
The knight was charming, brave, and he had a great body!

Good Parallelism!
The knight was charming, brave, and physically fit!

Bad Parallelism!
Indian summer, Armageddon and being affected by climate change are all possible explanations for this unseasonably warm weather.

Good Parallelism!
Indian summer, Armageddon, and climate change are all possible explanations for this unseasonably warm weather.


Ok, I think you get the idea…

 

Let’s conclude by solving this hard-level question from a real SAT:


All species of sea turtles are endangered because of overharvesting of adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habitats.
 
(A)   of overharvesting of adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habitats
(B)   of the adults being overharvested, their eggs disturbed, and destroying nesting habitats
(C)   the overharvesting of adults, disturbance of their eggs, and destruction of nesting habits
(D)   the adults are overharvested, their eggs are disturbed, and their nesting habits are destroyed
(E)    being overharvested as adults, their eggs being disturbed, and destruction of nesting habits

Even though this is a hard-level question, we should immediately recognize that it’s testing our knowledge of parallel structure. Why? Because the underlined portion is a list, of course.

According to the principle of parallelism, each item in this list must take the same form. In the first and third items (“overharvesting of adults” and “destruction of nesting habitats“), the verb comes before the noun. However, in the second item (“their eggs being disturbed“) the noun comes before the verb. Ugh! This list is one ugly mishmosh of un-parallel parts!

To fix this sentence, look for the answer choice that presents each item of the list in parallel form. When you have selected your answer, hit the link below to see if you’re correct!

The correct answer is D.

In choice (D), all listed items are parallel in form. Within the list, each item takes the form “noun + are + verb.” Beautiful sentence! Bravo!

What about the other answer choices?

We already know that choice (A) doesn’t work because the items in the list are not parallel in form. In the first and third items (“overharvesting of adults” and “destruction of nesting habitats“), the verb comes before the noun.  However, in the second item (“their eggs being disturbed“) the noun comes before the verb.

Choice (B) presents the same problem. In the first two items in the list (“the adults being overharvested” and “their eggs disturbed“), the noun comes before the verb. In the third item (“destroying nesting habitats“), the verb comes before the noun.

Choice (C) is a decoy–do not be fooled by its wily ways! “Overharvesting of adults,” “disturbance of their eggs” and “destruction of nesting habitats” are more or less parallel. Each item takes the basic form: “verb + preposition + noun.” However! Choice (C) makes an incomplete sentence! Take a look:

“All species of sea turtle are endangered because overharvesting of adults…”

Does that sound like a full sentence to you? I didn’t think so. For choice (C) to work, we would either need:

“All species of sea turtle are endangered because of overharvesting of adults…”

Or:

“All species of sea turtle are endangered because overharvesting of adults… caused their population to decline.” (Or something like that.)

Choice (E) does not fix the parallelism problem. “Being overharvested as adults” (being + verb + noun), “their eggs being disturbed” (noun + being + verb), and “destruction of nesting habitats” (verb + preposition + noun) are not parallel in form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *