Grammar error: use of 'only'

Bug #803779 reported by Francois Botha on 2011-06-30
This bug affects 1 person
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Launchpad itself

Bug Description

Excuse my grammar naziness.

The word 'only' is used incorrectly in a few places. The grammar rule is that the word 'only' qualifies the phrase that follows it.

"You currently only receive email when this bug is closed."
should be
"You currently receive email only when this bug is closed."

As it stands, the implication is that I only receive email. I don't read it. I don't forward it. I do anything else with it except receiving it.

There are other examples of the error as well, e.g. when I want to unsubscribe from bugs.

Martin Pool (mbp) wrote :

Can you cite an authority that this form is wrong?

Changed in launchpad:
status: New → Incomplete
Francois Botha (igitur) wrote :

My English teacher at school? :)

Otherwise check out

I don't think someone would really think this means "you will only
receive mail but not be able to read it" or "you will only receive
mail from Launchpad and not from your grandmother"; those are
grammatically possible but not sensible. Did that actually confuse

Francois Botha (igitur) wrote :

It didn't confuse me, but it did irritate me. It's a common grammar error and some of us try to improve the web by pointing it out.

Robert Collins (lifeless) wrote :

FWIW the current phrasing weirded me out a little; I would expect
'launchpad only sends mail notifications..' - we can't talk about what
they receive with any accuracy anyway.

Martin Pool (mbp) wrote :

lifeless, I agree with that. I don't think the grammatical rule about the placement of 'only' really exists. "I will only fly internationally in first class" is perfectly clear ;-).

Perhaps something here can be generalized into ?

Francois Botha (igitur) wrote :

It really does exist.

To use the example above:
'launchpad only sends mail notifications'
'launchpad sends only mail notifications'

mean two different things. Yes, in my initial examples the context does remove most of the ambiguity, but the rule really does exist. I'm a bit surprised by the hesitance to fix a simple grammar error. And I'm starting to question the level of English education in other countries. Hell, English isn't even my first language!

Matthew Revell (matthew.revell) wrote :

My preference is for "only" to immediately precede or follow the word/phrase it relates to. There's less chance for confusion, that way.

I don't have any authority to hand to defend this statement but will look it up in my Oxford Style Manual when I get back to my book shelf :)

Aaron Bentley (abentley) wrote :

I agree that it's nicer to put "only" closer to the item it relates to, but it's not a very important thing to do.

Changed in launchpad:
status: Incomplete → Triaged
importance: Undecided → Low
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