Writers often ask how to use the word “only” correctly. And is it bite-sized or bite-size? Farmer’s Market, Farmers Market, or Farmers’ Market? Bated breath or baited breath? Here’s the skinny on these tricky words and phrases.
How to use “only.”
The correct placement of “only” in a sentence depends largely on what part of the sentence is to be stressed.
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:
“After 200 years of preachment the following observations may be made: the position of only in standard spoken English is not fixed, since ambiguity is avoided through sentence stress; in casual prose that keeps close to the rhythms of speech only is often placed where it would be in speech; and in edited and more formal prose, only tends to be placed immediately before the word or words it modifies.”
Those kids respond to only one teacher; the rest seem to have little influence.
Only two kids responded to the invitation.
One Submit Right Now! reader asked about a couple of other gray areas:
Is it bite-size or bite-sized? Farmer’s market, farmers market, or farmers’ market?
Again, according to Merriam-Webster, it is correct to use either “size.” The more common usage listed is “bite-size,” but under variant usage “bite-sized” is listed.
And for farmers’/farmers/farmer’s markets: As our reader noted, “Sheesh! How many ways can you find this expressed on any given day?”
It would make more sense to use “farmers’ market,” as it indicates a market where there is usually more than one farmer selling their wares, but a Google search yields no consistent usage or hard-and-fast rule.
Oh, and one more thing:
Use “bated” breath, not “baited” breath. The word “bated” is the abbreviated form of “abated,” which means to subside or put an end to.
If you’ve been staying up at night wondering about the proper use of “only,” bite-sized vs. bite-size, farmer’s market, farmers market, or farmers’ market, or bated breath vs. baited breath, toss and turn no more. You can always let the proofreaders at Writer’s Relief check your writing submissions for tricky words and other grammatical problems.
When I see "baited" breath, I tend to think of someone with very bad halitosis and crinkle my nose at the thought.