Recently I heard an ad on the radio. It started with ‘We only sell the best brands of vehicles.’
Being the sceptical editor that I am, I expected the ad to continue on to talk about their after-sales servicing and who knows what else.
But, no, it seems that they sell. That’s it.
It would seem that they didn’t mean ‘We sell only the best brands…’
I had to silently apologise to the copywriter - and cheer that the sublte difference that the placement of words like ‘only’ was recognised.
Think about the differences in meaning in these sentences.
- Only I ate the cakes. [Everyone else ate biscuits.]
- I only ate the cakes. [I didn't bake them.]
- I ate only the cakes. [I could have eaten biscuits as well.]
Does it matter?
How clearly do you want your message to be broadcast?
Do you want your readers to easily understand what you’re telling them?
I think it does: I always aim for clear, engaging and sharp writing, whether I’m writing or editing.
What do you think?
Have you had to think twice about a message because of the placement of one of those pesky little words?
You can download more writing tips from my website.