A Powerful Word

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I saw this idea on Facebook today; it reminded me of an exercise I used to do with my corporate writing groups.

Place the word ONLY anywhere in the following sentence and see how it changes the meaning:

SHE TOLD HIM THAT SHE LOVED HIM.

Only she told him that she loved him. (No one else did.)
She only told him that she loved him. (But she didn’t show him she did.)
She told only him that she loved him. (She didn’t tell that to anyone else.)
She told him only that she loved him. (She didn’t tell him anything else.)
She told him that only she loved him. (No one else loves him.)
She told him that she only loved him. (But she didn’t like or admire him.)
She told him that she loved only him. (She loves no one else.)
She told him that she loved him only. (Again, she loves no one else.)

ONLY is a modifier. That means it gives information about another part of the sentence. Modifiers may be one word or a group of words. They should be placed right next to the word you want to give more information about. If you put modifiers in the wrong place, you are creating, yes, misplaced modifiers. At times that will lead to embarrassing or awkward situations:

Be certain to buy enough yarn to finish your mittens before you start.
Wearing red noses and floppy hats, we laughed at the clown.
For sale: Mixing bowl set for chef with round bottom for efficient beating.

I know you don’t want people to laugh at your writing, so check for misplaced modifiers as part of your proofreading.

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1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

One response to “A Powerful Word

  1. Helpful reminders – we all fall into this trap one time or another!

    Like

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