By Mary Morel
A reader commented that I had only in the wrong place in the following sentence.
I have only defined the ones I didn’t know.
I should have said:
I have defined only the ones I didn’t know.
I agree, but am not sure that it matters. Guide to Grammar and Writing says:
The issue of the proper placement of “only” has long been argued among grammarians. Many careful writers will insist that “only” be placed immediately before the word or phrase it modifies. Thus “I only gave him three dollars” would be rewritten as “I gave him only three dollars.” Some grammarians, however, have argued that such precision is not really necessary, that there is no danger of misreading “I only gave him three dollars” and that “only” can safely and naturally be placed between the subject and the verb. The argument has been going on for two hundred years.
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