There is a meme going around that illustrates the power of word placement very well: place the word “only” anywhere in the sentence and see how the meaning changes, yet it remains a proper sentence. I won’t go through all of them, but let’s look at a few.
Only she told him that she loved him.
No one but her has told him of their love.
She only told him that she loved him.
Her profession of love for him was not sincere.
She told only him that she loved him.
She admitted her feelings to him but no one else.
Go ahead and work the rest out in your head and you’ll see that this sentence has many diverse meanings depending on where you place “only”.
And then there is this “rule” for descriptive words put out by the BBC:
Then we have word bending. A statement that I see misused quite a lot is something like:
Everyone doesn’t like ice cream.
What they’re trying to say is that ice cream does not appeal to everyone. But this statement means that “everyone” (all inclusive) dislikes (doesn’t like) ice cream, or no one likes ice cream. What they should say is Not everyone likes ice cream. But I guess that sounds too formal for many people today because I see this mistake made a lot — and it drives me nuts!
What language faux pas drives YOU nuts?