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Sample sentence: "With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research, creating an outline, and wrote a rough draft."

In this case, is "doing" a verb in parallel with "creating" but not "wrote" or is "started" the verb in parallel with "wrote" but not "creating"?

Does "started" actually modify "doing" and is therefore functioning as an adverb?

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    sure, "started" is the verb. note too that you can just write "started research" not "started doing research". – Fattie Sep 17 '14 at 4:23
  • There's no parallelism. The sentence is grammatical, but poorly structured. The author's intention is apparently to state that the rough draft was created while doing the research, the research helping create an outline. This is the normal process. – Kris Sep 17 '14 at 6:07
  • Start + V-ing and start + to-inf use the verb 'start' in a phase structure with the second verb. Other verbs commonly used in phase structures (perhaps only with the present participle) are commence, stop, cease, continue, the MWV keep on, and go (I go shopping on Saturdays). They modify the second verb but are never called adverbs: they are essential to the meaning, rather than saying more about the manner etc of the action. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '15 at 13:03
  • You've got two conflicting parallel structures here. Though started is part of a phase structure with doing, it can be used in a parallel phase structure: He started shouting and waving his fists. To keep the structure consistent in your example, the third 'second verb' needs to appear as the ing-form also. // An alternative reading is that the parallelism is predicated on the verb 'started' independently of tye phase structure: He started doing his research, ate his tea, and went to bed. This time, all the verbs (other than the ing-form) need to be in past simple. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '15 at 13:19
  • Note the similar-looking structure, not available here: 'He started snoring, [thereby] disturbing all the people in the back three rows.' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '15 at 13:21
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The parallel structure in your current sentence, expressed in full, would be as follows:

With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research, [started] creating an outline, and wrote a rough draft.

However, if you wanted to say that Mitzy didn't merely start creating an outline but actually completed creating one, you could adjust the parallel structure this way:

With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research, created an outline, and wrote a rough draft.

Alternatively, if you wanted to indicate that she only started doing all three things, you could adjust the structure this way:

With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research, creating an outline, and writing a rough draft.

which is equivalent to saying this:

With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research, [started] creating an outline, and [started] writing a rough draft.

Depending on how you structure the three parallels, you can start each parallel branch from the stem "Mitzy" or from the stem "started."

Another option is to structure the sentence with two pairs of branches in parallel at two different levels: a nested pair of parallels from the stem "started" (namely, "doing research" and "creating an outline") within a broader pair of parallels from the stem "Mitzy" (namely, "started doing research and creating an outline," and "wrote a rough draft"):

With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research and creating an outline, and wrote a rough draft.

Or you can take the whole thing out of parallel and present it serially:

With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started doing research. She also began creating an outline, and eventually she wrote a rough draft.

As Lou Reed once sang, "the possibilities endless."

  • +1 Last line. Yes, but the original certainly made me pause (I tend to read fast). It jarred, because I expected it to be "created", not "creating". I have no difficulty with your explanation (although as a highly educated native UK speaker I have never even heard of parallelism), but it sometimes helps to be aware of the impression you create in others ... – almagest Sep 17 '14 at 5:26
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    Parallelism with a verb-in-phase (started Ving) is always going to be tricky. John Lawler sagely says that omitting parts of sentences can lead rapidly to confusion. He knows his onions. Here, I'd say an extra 'and' and 'she' at least is needed: 'Mitzy started doing research and creating an outline, and she wrote a rough draft.' / 'Mitzy started doing research: she created an outline and wrote a rough draft.' – Edwin Ashworth Sep 17 '14 at 6:55
  • +1 for an explanation that is exemplarily clear and thorough. – Erik Kowal Sep 17 '14 at 8:59
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With three days remaining in the term, Mitzy started researching. She also began to create an outline, and then wrote a rough draft. (If we use the ing-form 'researching' in place of 'doing', the sentence will be free from any error in parallelism; moreover if we use began + to-infinitive followed by the verb 'wrote' in the past tense there will be no error of tense as the word 'began' is already in the past tense.)

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