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I found this sentence:

Margaret Thatcher’s legendary nickname Laura Norder not only reflected her political preferences, but also the fact that, like most of her compatriots, she pronounces law and order with an intrusive /r/ between law and and.

(From: Perception of intrusive /r/ in English by native, cross-language and cross-dialect listeners. Annelie Tuinman, Holger Mitterer, Anne Cutler.)

Almost instantly, the use of not only and but also of the sentence jumped out right at me. My first instinct was like: this is incorrect, it should be "reflected not only ..., but also the fact that, ...". (Another possibility I think possible is: "Not only did Margaret Thatcher's legendary nickname ..., but also the fact that, ...".)

Then again, maybe I think too much, and it's not really incorrect, just a matter of style.

What is the right way to think of the sentence?

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    "Correctness" is not a matter of fact but of what the speaker cares about. I care about making sentences as unambiguous and easy to parse as possible, so I'm on the side of folks who say the sentence would be better if it were written reflected not only A but also B. – StoneyB Jul 16 '15 at 21:38
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    Thatcher was given several different nicknames, including Milk Snatcher (she discontinued the free school milk scheme), Tina ("There is no alternative" to her policies), She Who Must Be Obeyed, Iron Lady (by the Soviets, but UK media took it up too), Attila the Hen, and Maggie . But to the best of my knowledge, Laura Norder never had any particular currency in relation to her. It certainly wouldn't merit the "legendary" tag. – FumbleFingers Jul 16 '15 at 22:32
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When written as per your example (with extraneous verbiage stripped):

[It] not only reflected her political preferences, but also the fact that [...] she pronounces law and order [that way].

The parallel construction isn't between "not only" and "but also", but between not only reflected and but also [reflected].

It is as if there's a second implicit copy of the verb there, not unlike how in English we can say:

She gave him the book, her the scroll, and the rest of them photocopies.

So:

[It] not only reflected her political preferences, but also [reflected] the fact that [...] she pronounces law and order [that way].

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It's a bit confusingly structured, but the basic structure is

A not only reflected B, but also C

Where A is

Margaret Thatcher’s legendary nickname Laura Norder

B is

her political preferences

and C is

the fact that, like most of her compatriots, she pronounces law and order with an intrusive /r/ between law and and.

Me, I'd write it differently, but I'm not a Writer-with-a-capital-W.

  • No, that's incorrect. A is "her political preferences", B is "the fact that [...] she pronounces [...]". – Codeswitcher Jul 16 '15 at 22:10
  • Whoops: got it all wrong. I'll fix it. – Daniel Griscom Jul 16 '15 at 22:11

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