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3. Placing the Word “Only”

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According to Garner Oxford, the word only is “the most frequently misplaced of all English words.” Garner Oxford, p. 239. You should put only immediately before the word you intend to limit. The greater the distance between only and the word it limits, the greater the chances for ambiguity. Study this blunder in USA Today, which is quoted in Garner Oxford:

[T]he prosecution was hindered from seeking a conviction on attempted manslaughter charges because Seles elected not to testify at the hearing and only provided her medical records shortly before the trial was to begin.

In that situation, Seles did not only provide. Instead, she provided her medical records only shortly before the trial was to begin.


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