Today, while preparing the next batch of “Writing Glitch” posts, I was reminded of a topic I’ve been wanting to address for a while: the placement of the word only in a sentence and how that placement affects (not effects, dammit) the overall meaning.
Take the sentence, He said he loved her, and add only somewhere — anywhere.
Only he said he loved her. (No one else said he/they loved her.)
He only said he loved her. (He said he loved her, but he didn’t do or say anything else.)
He said only he loved her. (He said that no one else loved her.)
He said he only loved her. (He said he loved her but not that he did anything else.)
He said he loved only her. (He said he loved no one other than her.)
As a character in Robert Holdstock’s novel Lavondyss said, “Stories are fragile. Like people’s lives. It only takes a word out of place to change them forever.”