Another Case for Parallelism

These words are on an IRS document that instruct people how to complete the W-4:

Use this worksheet only if you plan to itemize deductions, claim certain credits, adjustments to income, or an additional standard deduction.

Oh so promising after the second clause. How would you fix it (for the sake of those poor rich people who have to “adjustment” and wonder if they are so supposed to do this)?

By the way, do you notice how much more efficient our country would be if only we taught children grammar/punctuation?

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3 Responses

  1. Amen, Andrew!

  2. Oh, this is one of the things I am constantly preaching to my students! I would say a full half of their sentence structure problems come from this source. (The other half come from their inability to combine indepenedent clauses properly.)

    If I were correcting it for them, I would point them to the verbs, and say:
    “Use this worksheet only if you plan to itemize deductions, to claim certain credits, to make an adjustment to your income, or to take an additional deduction.”
    🙂

    • Chris,

      Now we’re talking! Oh those beautiful, rhythmic, understandable infinitives!

      In The Lost Tools of Writing we teach parallelism first for precisely this reason.

      You can’t think clearly if you can’t structure your thoughts. Every scheme is rooted in one way or another in parallelism. It’s just a question of what you are making parallel.

      So when we talk about teaching kids how to think, it is beyond imperative that we teach them how to structure their thoughts in parallel ways. Constantly.

      An aside, perhaps: emotions don’t tend to structure themselves, so when we teach them “self-expression” and they hear “express your feelings” we can pretty well forget about them ever learning how to write well.

      Thank you Chris!

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