Adverbs should be placed as close as possible to thewords or phrases that they modify. If you allow an adverb to be separated fromthe word or phrase that it modifies, theinterpretation of the adverb may become ambiguous.
Always place a quantity adverb immediately before theword it modifies.
For all its richness, today's Everglades is adrastically diminished place.[Drasticallymeans to a great extent.]
--Norman Boucher, "Back to the Everglades," Technology Review(modified)
Be especially careful with the placement of the adverbs only andjust. Not only can the meaning of a sentence be ambiguous, but themeaning can change drastically as the adverb moves. Consider the followingexamples.
For the most part, we considered only computersimulations that mimic the lamprey's neural activity.[The sentencesuggests that, of various simulations the investigators might have considered,they focused on just those of a certain sort--perhaps true, but not what theauthor wished to communicate.]
For the most part, we considered computer simulations thatonly mimic the lamprey's neural activity. [Thesentence suggests that some computer simulations might do more than mimic--nonsense, since all simulations just mimic the process they are simulating.]
For the most part, we considered computer simulations that mimic thelamprey's neural activity only. [The sentence suggeststhat, of more than one feature of the lamprey's behavior or more than one kindof activity, the investigation singled out neural activity--again possibly true,but not what the author wished to communicate.]
For the most part, we considered computer simulations that mimic thelamprey's only neural activity. [The sentence nowsuggests, erroneously, that the lamprey has but a single neural activity and thatthis activity was the focus of the investigation.]
For the most part, we considered computer simulations that mimiconly the lamprey's neural activity. [This is in facthow the author wrote the sentence, though (at least out of context) the sentenceis still ambiguous. Is the point that the neural activity only of the lamprey,but not of other animals, was the focus of the investigation, or that only neuralactivity was to be simulated?]
--Sten Grillner, "Neural Networks for Vertebrate Locomotion," ScientificAmerican (modified)
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