A “Not Only . . . But Also” Quiz

By Mark Nichol

The following ten sentences, in one way or another, violate the basic rules about “not only . . . but also” constructions or similar usage. Skillful writers have gotten away with casual deviations from strictly correct usage, but each of the sentences below can — and, in my opinion, should — be improved.

Read this post for a refresher course before correcting these examples, all drawn from raw copy intended for publication, or take a look after you complete the exercise and then scroll down to compare your solutions with mine, located at the bottom of this page.

1. “These incidents are serious because they damage the credibility not only of the journalists directly involved, but all journalists.”

2. “But then there is Giacomo Junia, a contender from Chicago who is said not just to have used anchovies but Worcestershire sauce.”

3. “I saw the ruling as a broad promise, one that not only would open up public schools, but all avenues in America to blacks and to all people of color in the United States.”

4. “That’s why long-term city planning, not just piecemeal permitting, is not only helpful for the community but for the developers as well.”

5. “Alcoholism is seen as not only a physical and psychological disease but also a spiritual one.”

6. “They may not regard these locales as holiday sites, but rather as trustworthy countries in which to obtain the services they need.”

7. “Chemotherapy affects the ovarian tissues not only through inducing apoptosis of follicles themselves but also damages the adjacent tissue.”

8. “Not only would this count against the ethical propriety, it would also seem to render even more unlikely the result that the clone child would produce great achievements of benefit to society.”

9. “This solution could not only save the life of a sibling but also other family members.”

10. “They feel very empowered not just about learning the history but how they can apply what they learned.”

Answers

1. “These incidents are serious because they damage the credibility not only of the journalists directly involved but also of all journalists.”

2. “But then there is Giacomo Junia, a contender from Chicago who is said to have used not just anchovies but also Worcestershire sauce.”

3. “I saw the ruling as a broad promise, one that would open up not only public schools but also all avenues in America to blacks and to all people of color in the United States.”

4. “That’s why long-term city planning, not just piecemeal permitting, is helpful not only for the community but for the developers as well.”

5. “Alcoholism is seen not only as a physical and psychological disease but also as a spiritual one.”

6. “They may regard these locales not as holiday sites but rather as trustworthy countries in which to obtain the services they need.”

7. “Chemotherapy affects the ovarian tissues not only through inducing apoptosis of follicles themselves but also by damaging the adjacent tissue.”

8. “This would not only count against the ethical propriety but would also seem to render even more unlikely the result that the clone child would produce great achievements of benefit to society.”

9. “This solution could save the lives not only of a sibling but also of other family members.”

10. “They feel very empowered not just about learning the history but also about how they can apply what they learned.”

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4 Responses to “A “Not Only . . . But Also” Quiz”

  • Oliver Lawrence

    A widespread problem indeed :).

    I agree with all of the solutions here except 5 and 8, which both seem acceptable in their original versions. The key thing is to ensure that the “not only…but also” construction is grammatically symmetrical, which these appear to be (eg 5 has a noun phrase after both halves of the construct, and the object of the preposition ‘as’ is the entire phrase from ‘not only’ to ‘spiritual one’). What was your thinking on those two?

  • Ken K

    As always, a great post.

  • Kathryn

    I’m with Oliver, although I do think that the rewrite of #5 does flow better, even if the original was grammatically correct. And I see why #6 was included in the list, even though neither the original nor the rewrite contains the “not only/but” construction.

    I also find myself a bit uncomfortable with the inclusion of items 1 and 3 in the group. In all other constructions, the noun associated with “not only” and the noun associated with “but also” are distinct from each other, making it necessary to use “also” (or a similar phrase) to add the second one to the first. In 1 and 3, the noun associated with “not only” is an example of the category noun associated with “but.” Are “all journalists” really being added as a separate item to “the journalists directly involved,” or “all avenues” being added to “public schools?” (Mind you. . .I’d think twice about the metaphoric relationship between public schools and avenues, but that’s beside the point.) Isn’t this actually a different use of the phrase “not only?”

  • Cliff Wilkinson

    Here is how I would rewrite number 10:

    “They feel empowered not just because they are learning the history but also because they are applying what they have learned.”

    The reason I changed this is because one feels empowered to do something, not empowered about something.

    Also, you will note that I deleted the word “very”. Either one feels empowered or one does not.

    Thank you for the post, Mark.

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