Only Abuse

Only, Used Correctly

The simple rule of only is that is modifies—or limits—the word that follows it (or sometimes the entire phrase that follows it).

See how only limits every word of the sentence “She told him that she loved him,” and changes the meaning of the sentence every time.

Only she told him that she loved him. She and no one else said that she loved him.

She only told him that she loved him. She told him that she loved him, but she didn’t necessarily believe or mean it.

She told only him that she loved him. She told him and no one else that she loved him.

She told him only that she loved him. She said that she loved him, and said nothing more.

She told him that only she loved him. She told him that she and no one else loved him.

She told him that she only loved him. She said that she loved him and had nothing else to do with him.

She told him that she loved only him. She loved him and no one else.

She told him that she loved him only. She loved him and no one else.


It Matters When It Matters

Imagine you’re buying an expensive renter’s insurance policy to cover the loss of your possessions to a fire. How many ways could the insurance company deny your claim by inserting “only” at strategic places in this policy language?

(1) ABC Casualty will reimburse the insured (2) to replace possessions (3) if destroyed by (4) fire (5) in the insured’s (6) apartment.

  1. What if ABC Casualty merges with another insurer?
  2. What if the insured doesn’t want to replace some items?
  3. What if possessions are merely damaged?
  4. What if both fire and smoke, or sprinkler water, cause the damage?
  5. What if other apartments also suffer damage?
  6. What if the insured has two apartments?

What other exclusions could the insurer claim by placing “only” at other places in the same sentence?


Needs Work

As I was producing this post, I saw three errors in one post at
http://remezcla.com/culture/princess-leia-hair-buns/

But Lucas’ revelation of the hairstyle’s origins only seemed to cause confusion across the internet. Some found it difficult to find photographic evidence for Lucas’ claims. Perhaps, they only saw images of soldaderas wearing hats. Correction, December 29 at 1:20 p.m. ET: This post has been updated. It originally misstated that the Hopi women were only thought to be an inspiration for Lucas. However, the Denver Art Museum’s Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit recognizes the influence Hopi women had on Princess Leia’s iconic look. 

  • But Lucas’ revelation of the hairstyle’s origins only seemed to cause confusion across the internet.
    • Here the author means: “Lucas’s revelation seemed only to cause confusion.”
  • Perhaps, they only saw images of soldaderas wearing hats. 
    • Here the author means: “Perhaps they saw only images of soldaderas.”
  • The Hopi women were only thought to be an inspiration for Lucas.
    • Here the author means: “Only Hopi women were thought to be an inspiration.”

Exercise

The following are examples of “only” abuse from this semester’s students. Decide which of the alternatives are the best and clearest claims.

Answer by leaving a Reply below of the type: A2/B3/C1/D3

A. Needs Work: The jobless rate is only a representation of people without jobs that are still searching for jobs.

  1. The jobless rate represents only people without jobs who are still searching for jobs.
  2. Only the jobless rate represents people without jobs who are still searching for jobs.
  3. The jobless rate represents people without jobs who are only searching for jobs.

.B. Needs Work: They happened to succeed in only stealing addresses and phone numbers. No credit card numbers or social security numbers were obtained.

  1. They happened to only succeed in stealing addresses and phone numbers, not credit card or social security numbers.
  2. They happened to succeed in stealing only addresses and phone numbers, not credit card or social security numbers.
  3. They happened to succeed in only stealing addresses and phone numbers, not credit card or social security numbers.

.C. Needs Work: Ebola is neither an airborne virus or waterborne and can only be spread through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.

  1. The Ebola virus is neither airborne nor waterborne and can be spread only through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
  2. The Ebola virus is neither airborne nor waterborne and only can be spread through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
  3. The Ebola virus is neither airborne nor waterborne and can be spread through direct contact with only an infected person’s bodily fluids.

.D. Needs Work: Ebola, which is only spread through contact with bodily fluids, can be controlled by first-world infectious disease protocols.

  1. Ebola, which is spread through contact with bodily fluids, can only be controlled by first-world infectious disease protocols.
  2. Ebola, which is spread through contact with bodily fluids, can be controlled only by first-world infectious disease protocols.
  3. Ebola, which is spread only through contact with bodily fluids, can be controlled by first-world infectious disease protocols.

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