GMAT Tips from Veritas Prep

How to Check for Parallelism in Sentence Correction


How to Check for Parallelism in Sentence Correction

Photograph by Nikada

This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

One of the most common (and confusing) parallelism decisions on the GMAT involves “correlative conjunctions.” Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions used in pairs to join single words or groups of words of equal weight in the sentence. The list or correlative conjunctions includes:

• “Either … or”
• “Neither … nor”
• “Both … and”
• “Not only … but also”
• “Whether … or”

The Basics
The most important aspect of correlative conjunctions is that the pairs or groups of words linked together must be parallel.

Here is an example of the proper use of the correlative conjunction “either … or” (note the parallelism): “He will go to either the movies this afternoon or the store this evening.”

The rule for correlative conjunctions is that any word or phrase placed prior to the first word of the conjunction (in this case the word “either”) is shared by both parallel phrases and does not need to be repeated. This means that since the “go to” comes before the “either” it is automatically applied to both parts. So it is not necessary to say “go to the movies” or “go to the store” since we said “go to either.”

How would this same sentence look if the “go to” did not precede the conjunction?

“He will either go to the movies this afternoon or go to the store this evening.” Note the repetition of the phrase “go to” in “go to the movies … or go to the store.” Any word or phrase that comes after the first word of the conjunction is not shared and must be repeated to achieve parallelism.

An Easier Way
There must be an easier way to handle this, right? In fact there is a great way to check for parallelism on “either … or,” “not only … but also,” and other correlative conjunctions.

Cover up the text beginning with the first word of the conjunction and ending with the last word of the conjunction. In our example above, the conjunction is “either … or.” So we cover up everything from the “either” to the “or.” When that text is covered up, you get a direct read on the second of the joined portions. This will allow you to see if it is parallel.

Applying this to each of the example sentences, you get, “He will go to either the movies this afternoon or the store this evening.” And, “He will either go to the movies this afternoon or go to the store this evening.”

The same technique will work for any of correlative conjunctions. Use the technique on this high-level problem from the Veritas Advanced Verbal Strategy book:

Mutual funds, though helpful for personal investors who wish to diversify their portfolios, expose shareholders to additional taxation: Not only are taxes on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities collected by the IRS, but also on reinvested dividend stakes earned by the securities held by the fund itself.

(A) not only are taxes on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities collected by the IRS, but also on
(B) collected by the IRS are taxes not only on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities, but also on
(C) taxes not only on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities are collected by the IRS but also
(D) not only taxes on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities are collected by the IRS, but also on
(E) taxes are collected by the IRS not only on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities but also

First, eliminate the clutter. When you see the colon after the word taxation, you know that you basically have two independent clauses. After the initial read-through, you can ignore the first clause and begin your analysis with the portion after the colon.

Apply the technique to each answer choice (by covering up from “not only” to “but also”):

(A) not only are taxes on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities collected by the IRS, but also on

(B) collected by the IRS are taxes not only on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities, but also on

(C) taxes not only on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities are collected by the IRS but also

(D) not only taxes on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities are collected by the IRS, but also on

(E) taxes are collected by the IRS not only on shareholders’ eventual sales of the securities but also

The first thing you should notice is that choices A and D give you nothing to work with. The second part (after the “but also”) just says “on reinvested dividend stakes” and there is nothing before the “not only” to help out. Choice C is not any better, it just says “taxes … reinvested dividend stakes.”

Choice B and D each have a considerable amount of text before the “not only.” Choice E sounds better, but you can see that the word “on” is essential for parallelism. So while Choice B sounds awkward, you can clearly see that only choice B works. Covering up the text makes checking for parallelism much easier.

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