If elements in a sentence are proposed as parallel in kind, they should be presented as parallel in structure. The following sentence fails to meet this simple requirement:
X. She is stubborn, selfish and has a sharp temper.
The three elements are not symmetrical here, and should not be organised as though they were. Either rearrange the elements so that they no longer pretend to be equally weighted â€“
She is stubborn and selfish, and has a sharp temper
â€“ or make them symmetrical in structure:
She is stubborn, selfish, and quick-tempered.
Such failures of symmetry are particularly common with â€˜correlative conjunction â€˜ such as either . . . or . . . and not only . . . but also . . .
X. Not only is that a very unfair statement, but also quite untrue.
The structures following not only and but (also) should match each other closely. In this example, however, the not only elements contains a verb, whereas the but also element does not.
The sentence can be reconstructed so that both elements have a verb, or neither elements has:
That statement is not only very unfair, but also quite untrue.
Not only is that a very unfair statement, but it is also quite untrue.
Next consider this faulty construction:
X. The actors were criticised both by their friends and their enemies.
Again the correlative conjunctions both and and demand matching constructions. Yet here the both-phrase contains the preposition by, whereas the and-phrase lacks it. The two elements can, theoretically, be brought into parallel in either of two ways:
? The actors were criticised both by their friends and by their enemies.
The second version here remains unsatisfactory, however, since it introduces an ambiguity into the sentence: the phrase both their friends could be taken on its own to suggest that the actors have only two friends.
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