Sunday, January 31, 2016

Grammar Ninja: Parallel Structure

Grammar Ninja is back with a rant inspired by a sign posted at the Ottawa airport.

My lovely sister-in-law, Mary Ann, came from Chicago for a whirlwind visit in Ottawa this weekend. While waiting to pick her up at the airport, I saw this sign.

simple. fresh. relax.

You may think that my problem is with the capitalization, but it is not. I don't like pseudo-relaxed, all-lower-case styling, but that isn't what got my goat. My quibble is with this.

Lack of parallel structure.

Parallel structure is a term that refers to all elements in a list having the same grammatical case, tense, or styling. The problem is they've used adjective-adjective-verb. In this case, any of the following would be acceptable:
  • simple. fresh. relaxed. -- adjective, adjective, adjective
  • simple. fresh. relaxing. -- adjective, adjective, adjective
  • simplify. refresh. relax. -- verb, verb, verb (all in the imperative case)
It humours me that the French translation corrected the error.

Facile, propre, reposant would translate to simple, fresh, relaxing. 

Having worked in communication for many a long year, I can guess at the process that went into this ad. At a weekend retreat, the executives probably brainstormed a number of words that reflected the hotel brand and delivered these (among others) to the advertising copywriter, and the writer just worked with what he got. 

Or a creative copywriter with a weak grasp of grammar pulled these out of his hat and it flew under everyone's radar.

Or our educational system let everyone down as it tried to teach more and more concepts to more and more children in less time with fewer teachers. 

But you won't make this mistake in your writing now, will you? The pedants of the world thank you. 


  1. Ha - I picked up right away that the French got it right.
    Honestly, all you have to do is read it aloud, and you can hear that it does not flow nicely at all. It sounds awkward. And now that is my impression of your brand: awkward flow. LOL

    1. And managed by people who are either not very bright or who failed Grade 9 English.


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