Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lonely onlys

Only is a word that often appears in the wrong place -- so often that this condition should have its own name. You've read about (and, I hope, avoid) misplaced modifiers. What about misplaced onlys?

Don't make your onlys lonely -- lonely for the word or words they're really modifying.

Case in point (taken from a Facebook post):
Anyone is welcome to the Fitz for the line-up announcement, but tickets only go on sale to members of MPR and The Walker first. (Bold mine.)

"Tickets only go on sale" -- OK, you know what they mean, but is this really what they mean? "Only" here is modifying "go on sale." 

What they really want to say is that tickets go on sale only to members ... first. This is their point: Only if you're a member do you get this special chance to buy tickets before everyone else can.

Again, you know what they mean. But it's not careful writing. And we all want to be careful writers, don't we?

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