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The balancing act with the not only … but also construction—Part 1

Are you using the not only … but also construction correctly? Perhaps you waver between each element wondering if the balance or word order is right. It may not be too surprising to learn that its usage in academic writing is more often than not edited by Capstone’s team of editors in order to achieve a grammatical construction.

So, even for experienced writers and editors, it can be a tricky construction to master. But once you know the rules and apply them with care, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to use this handy pair.

In Part 1 of this two-part article, we’ll present the theory of these two phrases. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll show some examples.

First things first, though. What part of speech does the not only … but also construction belong to?

They’re part of the conjunction family—a family of ‘joiner’ words that connects words, phrases or clauses together in a sentence. There are three types of conjunctions: the coordinating conjunctions that connect two equal parts of a sentence (e.g., ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’ and ‘so’); the subordinating conjunctions that connect two parts of a sentence that are not equal (e.g., ‘because’, ‘when’, ‘as’ and ‘since’); and the correlative conjunctions that are used in pairs and work together—in harmony, or so they should.

Yes, this construction is a correlative conjunction.

So, what makes a harmonious relationship with this pair? Here’s a useful trick: think balance. Just as balance is needed to strike a good yoga pose, this pair needs to be in perfect balance—or in parallel construction—in a sentence. A quick refresher on ‘parallel’. The elements within a series are in parallel construction when they all belong to the same part of speech and share the same tense—that is, each element in the series begins with a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll elaborate further on this construction by providing and explaining some useful. As always, we’d love to hear from you: please comment below with your own tricky examples of the not only … but also construction.

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