Would you know a misplaced modifier or a dangling participle if you saw one? What about an unparallel structure? As a Libra, and a proof-editor, with a more-than-healthy dose of OCD, I LOVE balance – in life and writing. Writing is an artform, done well.
If, like me, you like all things to be equal, feast your eyes on these examples of how – and how not – to balance your writing. And because there is always more than one way to rephrase something, proof-editing is endless fun – for nerds like me.
See if you can rephrase the ‘wrong’ answers before looking at my suggestions:
X She’s brilliant at not only writing but also bilingual.
✔️ She’s not only brilliant at writing but also bilingual.
✔️ Not only is she brilliant at writing, she’s also bilingual.
✔️ She is brilliant at writing and she’s bilingual.
X Not only is he grammatically competent but also computer literate.
✔️ He’s not only computer literate but also grammatically competent.
✔️ Not only is he computer literate, he’s also grammatically competent.
✔️ He’s computer literate and grammatically competent.
X Not only is she serious but also funny.
✔️ Not only is she serious, she’s also funny.
✔️ She’s not only serious but also funny.
✔️ She’s serious and funny.
X The waitress served a dish to the guest that was vegan.
[This is assuming the dish, and not the guest, was vegan.]
✔️ The waitress served a dish that was vegan to the guest.
✔️ The waitress served a vegan dish to the guest.
X They waste neither time nor squander energy.
✔️ They neither waste time nor squander energy.
✔️ They squander neither time nor energy.
✔️ They don’t waste time or energy.
[Because waste and squander mean pretty much the same thing.]
X Having finished work for the day, the cats were fed and watered.
[The random image is how I visualise 'working cats'.]
✔️ Having finished work for the day, they fed and watered the cats.
✔️ They finished work for the day and then fed and watered the cats.
X Being tall, the babies couldn’t reach them.
[Unless the babies are really tall and what they are reaching for is really tiny.]
✔️ Being tall, they were out of reach of the babies.
✔️ They were tall, so the babies couldn’t reach them.
X Walking through the woods, the trees were swaying in the breeze.
[Actually, there is a kind of bush or tree that moves – apparently.]
✔️ Walking through the woods, she saw the trees swaying in the breeze.
✔️ She noticed the trees swaying in the breeze as she walked through the woods.
X He wore socks on his feet that were too large.
✔️ He wore socks, which were too large, on his feet.
✔️ The socks on his feet were too large.
[He wore socks on his feet, which were too large – if you do want to say it is his feet, and not the socks, that are too large.]
X The girl was referred to the physician with suspected appendicitis.
[I suppose the physician could have had suspected appendicitis?]
✔️ The girl with suspected appendicitis was referred to the physician.
✔️ The girl was referred to the physician because appendicitis was suspected.
Balanced structures create flow and clarity. If you can’t sniff out those pesky imbalances yourself, then I know a proof-editor who would LOVE to do it for you.