I must take a brief interlude from my usual grammar and style ramblings to discuss the dilemma of the American yam, specifically the yams that we see in U.S. grocery stores. Let's say you're ambling down a clean well-lighted aisle, and there you see, between bananas and okra, thick red yams and sweet potatoes. But alas, poor Yorick, all this time you thought they were the same: plain potatoes, in the morning, standing four inches in one hand. Sweet potatoes in bags. Yams at school. They were the same on the dotted line. But in your arms they were always different.
Yams are root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, but of the Dioscorea genus—closely related to lilies. While yams can be similar in size to sweet potatoes, they can grow thicker and longer—multiple feet longer! Yams are starchier, drier, and, based on an intensive Google image search, whiter (though they can also have that seductive stale orange hue). What's worse is that true yams are difficult to find in U.S. grocery stores, and when they are, they usually come from the Caribbean or some other exotic place.
Modernity has commanded greater awareness to sexist language, especially the he or she pronoun. According to Gender in English Pronouns: Myth and Reality, the he pronoun, for some time, worked as a gender neutral pronoun rather than an indication of masculinity. We see this example often: The student who works hard sees his grades improve, and that's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Both examples are meant to indicate the neutral gender, where mankind replaces all humans. But this type of usage has also led to sexist phrases: a nurse should treat her patients well, and the doctor should write his notes legibly. Why must the nurse be feminine while the doctor masculine? It is this issue with the he, she, his, hers, him, her pronouns that has caused uproar. But how do we fix this?
Some have suggested adding an or into the sentences. May the student complete his or her homework. This clogs our language, and while I'm treading carefully here not to piss anyone off, my standing battle is for clarity and simplicity. And if his or her writing reflects his or her intent to soothe his or her desire to create a gender neutral setting where his or her peers all feel equal, then so be it, but it's sludgy and I'm already lost. Furthermore, if we get picky, why is the he pronoun first? We should have to flip it around each time to make it fair: If his or her writing reflects her or his intent to soothe his or her desire . . . . Swapping pronouns requires greater effort on the reader's part and highlights the author's political intent. The reader stops reading what the author says and instead reads the author's social statement.
Sounds like a formal art style, but unfortunately it's another term teachers throw at you for bad writing. Parallelism, in short, requires everything in a sentence to match, from tense to number. If I wrote, I will go shopping and made dinner, it doesn't take a trained eye to notice the mistake. To see it clearly, we can split the sentence apart: I will go shopping and I will made dinner. The correct form follows: I will go shopping and make dinner or I went shopping and made dinner. Both work, but imply different actions due to tense alterations.
Parallelism creeps into any kind of sentence, but there are warning signs to look for if prone to breaking parallel structure. Sentences constructed with the following are prone to nonparallel writing: Either . . . or, neither . . . nor, not only . . . but also, anything with both, lists, gerundives and infinitives, tense, and count. This about covers every English sentence. You want every part of your sentence to agree in number (Spaghetti and meatballs is a good dinner option), tense (They will see and conquer), and the many other things I listed above, which are easier taught through example.