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Tips on Word Placement

• Proper Placement of Not Only in a Sentence

• Proper Placement of Only in a Sentence
  

Proper Placement of Not Only in a Sentence

Copyright © 2000–2017 Lynette M. Smith

Not only is often misplaced in a sentence. For example:

Wrong: The directory covers not only general information but also provides details on names, addresses, and a wide variety of other relevant data.

Parallel structure is lacking here, as you can see when the sentence is illustrated as follows:

The directory covers
     not only general information
     but also provides details on names, addresses, and a wide variety of other relevant data.

The problem is that information (a noun) is not parallel to provides (a verb), so the reader is confused. To correct this problem, relocate not only as follows:

Right: The directory not only covers general information but also provides details on names, addresses, and a wide variety of other relevant data.

The corrected sentence could be illustrated as follows:

The directory
     not only covers general information
     but also provides details on names, addresses, and a wide variety of other relevant data.

Now covers and provides are parallel—they're both verbs—so the reader is no longer confused. (By the way, names, addresses, and variety are already parallel to one another, because they're all nouns, even though variety is preceded by the adjective wide and followed by the prepositional phrase of other relevant data.)

Even if you were never taught how to diagram sentences, it's often helpful to "map out" muddy sentences, as in the above example, to more easily identify and correct any problems.

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Proper Placement of Only in a Sentence

Copyright © 2001–2017 Lynette M. Smith

When speaking, most of us tend to misplace the word only in a sentence. We might say, for example, "I only want to go to the store if you go with me" instead of correctly saying, "I want to go to the store only if you go with me."

In writing, we should place the word only more carefully, so the meaning of the sentence can't be mistaken by readers. Consider, for example, how the unique placement of only in each of the following sentences results in four different meanings:

I only wanted to ride the roller coaster once more.
[I merely wanted to ride the roller coaster once more.]

I wanted to ride only the roller coaster once more.
[I didn't want to ride any other ride.]

I wanted to ride the only roller coaster once more.
[Only one roller coaster existed, and I wanted to ride it.]

I wanted to ride the roller coaster only once more.
[I didn't want to ride it two or three times more.]

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