Be conscious of your adverb placement

This type of problem is really a kind of grammatical mistake, but it’s such a commonly overlooked problem that we’ll cover it under the heading of style. Certain adverbs, such as only, should be used carefully.

Normally they modify whatever comes immediately after them. Although they are often placed before verbs, they rarely belong in that position.

Compare the following examples:

Confused adverb use

She only delivers newspapers on Fridays.

(paraphrase: “The only thing she does on Fridays is deliver newspapers”; or, “The only thing she does with newspapers on Fridays is deliver them.”)

More plausible option

She delivers only newspapers on Fridays.

(paraphrase: “The only thing she delivers on Fridays is newspapers.”)

Another option

She delivers newspapers only on Fridays.

(paraphrase: “Fridays are the only days that she delivers newspapers.”)

Other adverbs that are commonly misused in this way include almost, merely, and just.

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Shane Bryson

Shane finished his master's degree in English literature in 2013 and has been working as a writing tutor and editor since 2009. He began proofreading and editing essays with Scribbr in early summer, 2014.

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