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How to use ‘not only … but also’ in writing for professional purposes

To have its desired effect, dramatic techniques such as not only ….but also should be used sparingly in writing. As a presenter, being dramatic or emphatic is something I do, but I am constantly removing this from my written texts.

Here are some examples with expressions that mean ‘and’:

Not only … but also … (use once, but not more!) This expression is used when you wish to emphasize an unexpected element in the addition part. Don’t overuse it in any one text or it loses its dramatic effect.

Not only… but also connects either nouns or clauses. When it connects nouns, you never use commas, but when connecting clauses including a verb, you use a comma to separate them.

1 (a). This vaccination programme was not only taken up by the students, but the teachers also took an active interest.


To dramatize it even further we can use a technique called ‘fronting’ or ‘inversion’ (if you wish to Google it).

1 (b). Not only did the students take up the vaccination programme, but the teachers also took an active interest.

Both … and … can also be used if you wish to be more neutral and less dramatic.

2. Both the students and the teachers took up the vaccination programme.

Quiz on correct usage of ‘not only … but also’

Try to transform the sentence using the alternative versions above.

  1. We will not only invite the ministry representatives but also those from industry.
  2. Today, I not only have a deadline on a report, but I am also attending a long meeting all afternoon.
  3. Eternal vigilance applies not only to new and emerging health threats, but also to those that are still with us.

Suggested redrafts

  1. Inversion: Not only will we invite the ministry representatives but also those from industry.

We will invite both the ministry representatives and those from industry.

2. Inversion: Today, not only do I have a deadline on a report, but I am also attending a long meeting all afternoon.

 Today, I have both a deadline on a report and I am attending a long meeting in the afternoon.

3. Inversion: Not only does eternal vigilance apply to new and emerging health threats, but also to those that are still with us.  

Eternal vigilance applies both to new and emerging health threats and to those that are still with us.

Carol Waites (PhD)
Email: carolswritingtips@gmail.com
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Presentation/editing by Christina O’Shaughnessy (editor)
worldwidewriting.org/

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