Grammar Challenge #3

Question

Which is the best way to improve the following sentence? 

Jimmy cleaned his room quickly, carefully, and in a thorough manner.

A. . . . quickly, carefully, and thoroughly.

B. . . . in a quick, careful, and thorough manner.

C. either of the above

D. none of the above--the sentence is fine as it is

 

Answer and Explanation

The correct answer is C.

This is an issue of parallel syntax or parallelism. It's hard to argue that a lack of parallelism is strictly an error, grammatically speaking. Many would argue it is a simply matter of style. But just about everyone agrees that keeping lists in parallel grammatical form is preferable.

The list at the end of the sentence modifying the infinitive to clean includes two simple adverbs -- quickly and carefully -- and an adverbial prepositional phrase -- in a thorough manner. The sentence would be improved by the simple conversion of the phrase to the parallel adverb, thoroughly, as in answer A.

That's my preference, but there would be nothing wrong with making it parallel by using a list of adjectives within a prepositional phrase as in answer B.

Either of them works, and the difference between them is only a matter of preference.

On a side note, if you object to the use of a serial, or Oxford, comma in these sentences, we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one. We'll address that issue in a later Challenge!

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