Monthly Archives: October 2013

Only the lonely – lonely the only.

This week’s word is “only”—and more specifically, its placement (which can change the meaning of a sentence in unintended ways).  As with any other modifier, “only” appears next to the word or phrase modified, e.g.:

  • The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  (Translation: fear is the only thing we have to fear.)
  • The thing only we have to fear is fear itself.  (Translation:  other people might have to fear other things, but we are the only ones who have to fear … fear.)
  • The statute only pertains to Cardinals fans.  (This is unlikely to express what the author means.  It communicates that the statute only pertains, but does not have some other effect.)
  • The statute pertains only to Cardinals fans.  (This is more likely to express the author’s meaning.  It communicates that the only people the statute pertains to are Cardinals fans.)

I know this week’s message is short, but both of my teams are in the playoffs (the Red Sox and Dodgers).  So I only have time for this for now …

1 Comment

Filed under Troublesome Words

What is the difference between imply and infer?

Dear readers:

Many words are unwittingly misused by writers.  As a service to his readers, the Scribe will occasionally—like today—discuss some of the more commonly misused words.  Today we review “imply” and “infer.”

The simplest explanation of the difference between the two words is that a writer or speaker implies (suggests)—while a reader or listener infers (deduces), e.g.,

  • The Scribe’s remarks about the Dodgers implied a strong loyalty to the team.
  • From the Scribe’s remarks, Joel inferred that he didn’t like the Cardinals.
  • Your weak hitting effort implies a lack of work in the batting cage.
  • Am I right to infer from your effort that you don’t want a contract extension?

Far too often, writers and speakers use infer as if it were synonymous with imply; but it isn’t, and you should be careful to distinguish between the two words.

That is all for now …

Leave a comment

Filed under Troublesome Words