January 23rd, 2014 .

Not only wrong, but also too long

Max Morden

When I write, I have a few rules to help smooth out my writing. One rule is to avoid using “not only….but also.”

This is a familiar construction, but it gives rise to problems. It’s often used incorrectly. And in most cases it adds unnecessary words.

Take this sentence I recently came across: “We are not only grateful for their dedication to their work but also their willingness to champion it within their respective communities.”

The sentence as it stands is not properly balanced. The grammatical structure after “not only” must be the same as after “but also.” The sentence should read:

“We are grateful for not only their dedication to their work but also their willingness to champion it within their respective communities.”

However, does this sentence really need these extra words at all? If we took them out the sentence would read: “We are grateful for their dedication to their work and their willingness to champion it within their respective communities.” It’s not a great sentence, but it’s shorter and nothing is lost in meaning.

People are wrong to think that the adding of “not only…but also” makes their writing more effective. I avoid it whenever I can, except when I want to create a clear contrast.

A perfect example is a sentence I recently came across: “The young woman’s username featured not only the word “sexy,” but also a number synonymous with a sexual position.”

Is there a more effective way to write that sentence? Not that I can think of.

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