Misrelated Modifiers

Lesson 1: How to Test Where to Put Only

The words only, just, even, and not are slippery modifiers. Only slides out of place nine times out of ten. Always check to see where it belongs:

I only borrowed the teacups. [I.e., I didn't steal them.]
I borrowed only the teacups. [I.e., not the saucers]

In speech, vocal inflection shows which words go with which others. Thus, "I only borrowed the teacups" (with vocal emphasis on the last word) means "I borrowed nothing except the teacups." In writing, however, we must rely on word order to create the proper emphasis: "I borrowed only the teacups." Be careful of only. Test whether it is properly placed by replacing it with "no more than." If your meaning remains the same, okay, but if it changes, you need to move only.

Sentence to Test:
She only keeps enough money to buy her lunches.
She no more than keeps enough money to buy her lunches.

She keeps only enough money to buy her lunches.
Test of Revision:
She keeps no more than enough money to buy her lunches.

Specific Instructions: Drag and drop the sentence parts below onto the three lines to form a sentence meaning that the writer supports whatever measures will ultimately benefit but never harm the community. Use the test explained above to be sure your placement of only says what you want it to say.