not only, but also

Q: I was taught, or read, that when you start a sentence with “not only,” the subsequent “but” needs to be accompanied by an “also.” So: “Not only X, but also Y.”

Yet two recent examples, from high-profile publications, omit the “also”:

1. John Heilemann, “Bush’s Big Bomb,” Bloomberg Politics, October 29, 2015:

“What the night required of him, what everyone was watching for, was a demonstration that, despite the myriad troubles that have plagued him months, he could still be the guy: the candidate with the performance skills and the fortitude not just to survive but to thrive under pressure.”

2. Michael Kinsley, “The Courage to Act,” New York Times Sunday Book Review, October 8, 2015:

“If the government stood by and did nothing, the result would be catastrophic not just for those directly involved but for the entire economy.”

What say you?

A: Garner just wrote about this in his October 22 daily tip:

These correlative conjunctions must frame syntactically identical sentence parts—e.g.: “It not only will save construction costs but also the cost of land acquisition and demolition.” Donna Leslie, “Stadium Belongs on the Riverfront,” Cincinnati Enquirer, 23 Nov. 1997, at D3. (A possible revision: “It will save not only construction costs but also the cost of land acquisition and demolition.” The conjunctions correctly frame two noun phrases.)

One common issue in “not only” constructions is whether it’s permissible to omit the “also” after “but.” The answer is yes, the result being a casualism—e.g.: “[Perret] seeks to secure Grant’s reputation not only as a successful general but as a military genius.” Eric Foner, “The Very Good Soldier,” New York Times, 7 Sept. 1997, Section 7, at 13. So how do you decide whether to include “also” (which will always result in a correct construction)? It’s merely a matter of euphony and formality: let your ear and your sense of natural idiom help you decide in a given sentence.

Another way to complete the construction is “not only . . . but . . . as well.” But a writer who uses this phrasing should not add “also,” which is redundant with “as well”—e.g.: “Feminist methods and insights [must] be adopted not only by female scholars, but also by males as well.” J.M. Balkin, “Turandot’s Victory,” 2 Yale J. Law and Humanities 299, 302 (1990). In that sentence, “also” should have been omitted.

No comma is usually needed between the “not only” and “but also” elements, and—as the last citation above shows—to put one in merely introduces an awkward break.

Addendum (12/27/2015): Here’s another example, from the New Yorker, that temple of godly grammar:

3. Anthony Lane, “Doing the Right Thing,” New Yorker, November 9, 2015:

“To stop them turning, in the interests of justice, takes not only guts but imagination.”

Addendum (1/19/2016): From Slate:

4. Will Oremus, “Who Controls Your Facebook Feed,” Slate, January 3, 2016:

“Facebook’s news feed algorithm has shaped not only what we read and how we keep in touch, but how the media frame stories to catch our attention.”

Addendum (2/12/2016): From Time:

5. Nancy Gibbs and Callie Schweitzer, “Meet Motto, Time’s New Site for Advice Worth Sharing,” Time, February 11, 2016:

“They are drawn not only to Time’s coverage of the world but increasingly to Time’s content on how to live a richer, smarter, more meaningful life—how to negotiate a raise, how to manage your inbox, how to actually unplug on vacation.”

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