Currently, a taped commercial which features a celebrity and an upcoming event is running on one of the local network stations. When speaking about the event, the celebrity states a phrase similar to this: I only will have backstage access.
From listening to the rest of the commercial, I believe he means to say the following: Only I will have backstage access.... meaning the other networks will not have the exclusive coverage that he will have.
To some, the correction may seem picky. But, for those who are paying attention, the difference is important. There's a big difference between saying you're the sole person who will have access AND saying the only thing you will be doing is having access. Understand?
In short, the only should be placed near the item that is being modified. It's easier to see when moving the only around in a sentence, so below are the six different meanings inside the sentence 'Mike placed a letter in the mailbox.' (It is important to note that inflection in voice may also cause a change in some of the meanings, but the following are what these sentences usually mean.)
1. Only Mike placed a letter in the mailbox.
As discussed above, Mike is the only person who mailed a letter. No one else but Mike placed it in the box.
2. Mike only placed a letter in the mailbox.
The only thing Mike did was mail a letter. He didn't do anything else.
3. Mike placed only a letter in the mailbox.
The item Miked mailed was one letter. He didn't mail another.
4. Mike placed a letter only in the mailbox.
Mike mailed a letter and not a box or a parcel in the mailbox OR (depending on inflection) Mike placed a letter in the mailbox and nowhere else.
5. Mike placed a letter in the only mailbox.
Mike mailed a letter in the sole mailbox.
6. Mike placed a letter in the mailbox only.
Mike mailed a letter in the mailbox and nowhere else.
See the differences? Probably the most common misuse we hear is 'It will only take me a minute' OR 'It only will take me a minute' when 'It will take only a minute' is what is usually intended. So, if you just take a pause to consider what is being modified, the placement of only should be simple to determine.
As always, this is what I learned. So, if you learned it to be used in a different manner or you believe I am incorrect, please correct me. I need all of the help I can get.