Writing Tips

Grammar and Usage

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One Word That Changes Everything

Are You Properly Placing "Only" in Your Sentences?

Where you place the word “only” can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence.

Only I am certain he had read the research attorney’s notes.

I am certain only he had read the research attorney’s notes.

I am certain he had only read the research attorney’s notes.

I am certain he had read only the research attorney’s notes.

I am certain he had read the only research attorney’s notes.

I am certain he had read the research attorney’s only notes.

 

The most common mistake with the word “only” occurs when a lawyer places it just before a verb, instead of just after the verb.

 

Defendant only approached one of the plaintiffs with a settlement offer.

Defendant only approached only one of the plaintiffs with a settlement offer.

 

By placing the “only” before the verb in the first sentence, the lawyer implies that although Defendant “approached” a plaintiff with a settlement offer, Defendant never extended the offer.

By placing the “only” after the verb in the second sentence, the lawyer states that out of two or more plaintiffs, Defendant approached but one with a settlement offer - which usually is what the lawyer meant.

 

One word. Two meanings. Or six.

 

Less frequently, but in the same patterns, we misuse the word “just.” Same rules apply.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

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How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.