Writing for Business

Sep 17 2009   3:12PM GMT

If only I knew where to put “only”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

typing Which is correct?
The hiring manager said she was _______________________ who had the hard skills specified in the job ad.
a. only interviewing the applicants
b. interviewing only the applicants

Answer: b

Explanation: The first option would indicate that the hiring manager was not doing anything else but interviewing applicants with hard skills — no email, no meetings, no paperwork, just interviewing those candidates, 24/7. The second option means that she is not interviewing any applicants except for those with hard skills.

Similarly, if the title of this post was If I only knew where to put “only,” it would mean that I didn’t care to know about anything in the world except for the placement of “only” in a sentence or phrase. And, honestly, there are a few other things I’m interested in.

Lisa Silverman writes about this issue in her Grammar Tip: If Only Writers Put the Word “Only” Only Where It Should Go.

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