Friday, September 3, 2010

Lists: Imagine the iPad in a Parallel Universe

Sarah writes:
"You know that "iPad is delicious" ad? It annoys me that the list isn't parallel. Am I a big geek, or what?"

Hey, let's not have any name calling. Parallel lists are one of my big hang-ups, too. In the iPad ad, the copy goes like this:
iPad is delicious, current, learning, playful, literary, artful, friendly, productive, scientific, magical

Every word in the list is an adjective, except for "learning." As an "-ing" verb, it can be either a participle or a gerund. But that doesn't matter here. What matters is that "learning" is not an adjective. Ack! It sticks out like a sore thumb.

Where does the iPad ad go wrong? Its list doesn't follow a parallel structure.

Quick rules: 
  • When listing items or thoughts, use the same part of speech throughout. So if the first item in your list is an infinitive verb, the rest should be infinitive verbs. Today I'm going to wake up, brush my teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to school.
  • Use parallel structure when writing headings, bullet points, and other types of categories.

  • iPad is delicious, current, curious, playful, literary, artful, friendly, productive, scientific, magical
  • iPad is delicious, current, inquisitive, playful, literary, artful, friendly, productive, scientific, magical


  1. I don't really understand where they were going with "learning" (How is the iPad learning?), but couldn't it be an adjectival participle in this case? It seems like a stretch, but one could argue that using an iPad is "a very learning experience." Either way, I wish that they had picked a better word.

  2. You're right, Ann. As an adjectival participle, "learning" would not be out of place here. It's curious that, in this context, I didn't see "learning" as an adjective. On the other hand, I can think of many other "-ing" words that I would have readily accepted as adjectives (e.g., interesting, fascinating, amusing).

  3. Another thing that bothers me about this ad is the most common use of the word "artful" is around being scheming and deceiving, ala the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. The other meaning is "expert." When the ad shows a painting, I think they mean to imbue the word artful with a meaning it doesn't actually have - i.e. "full of art." Poor word choice.

  4. Good point, Cate. It's interesting how different words can have positive or negative connotations beyond their standard definition. Take the word "clever." In the UK, it has a positive connotation meaning roughly the same as "smart" does in the US. But in the US, "clever" can have a negative connotation, meaning sly or cunning.

  5. Students should be like this content because this kind of post help them to upgrade their knowledge in English grammar. So i think you take a good step to indpire the students to read grammar.