I see examples of the phrase “not only but also” frequently in construction marketing. Are you using this phrase appropriately in your copy? Read on to find out.
In grammatical terms, the phrase not only….but (also) is called a correlative conjunction. It is used to present two related pieces of information.
The ‘also’ is presented in brackets above because it is optional. As you’ll see from the examples that follow, it is not always used.
Not only… but also must include two related points
This definition brings me to my first point – the phrase is often employed where there is no close connection between the two pieces of information.
I see the ‘not only…but (also)’ part of speech misused frequently in construction marketing, where is used to increase the importance of two unrelated features of a product.
Here’s one example (edited from an actual piece of copy I worked on) that shows two unrelated features being incorrectly linked by ‘not only… but’.
With the high wear and rigorous cleaning regime of retail washrooms, durability is critical and System XYZ cubicles are not only robust in design, but are available in a wide range of colours and finishes to ensure corporate identity can be maintained.
In the example above, the two features, colours and durability, really bear no relation to one another. The wide range of colours is not conditional on the durability; nor are they a consequence of it.
To think of a better example, durability and an antibacterial surface finish, for example, would qualify as related information. In the context of cubicles, both of these features are relevant to maintenance in high-traffic public environments. You could argue that an antibacterial finish is an extra level of protection, so it makes sense that it follows in the second part of the sentence:
With the high wear and rigorous cleaning regime of healthcare washrooms, durability is critical and System XYZ cubicles are not only robust in design, but also have an antibacterial surface finish that prevents the spread of infection.
The second point should build on the first
The second part of your sentence, the ‘but also’ part, should really be something that builds upon the first, is an improvement to it or is something that is more difficult to achieve.
If the second part of the sentence is on the same footing as the first, using ‘not only… but also’ serves to artificially exaggerate the product features:
The products is not only available in a polished brass finish but also a nickel bronze finish.
Why is a nickel bronze finish more special than polished brass? You risk losing trust with your reader by over-exaggerating your marketing claims. In the example above, ‘nickel bronze’ is just another finish option, so there is no need to use ‘not only…but (also)’. It is more appropriate for a construction audience to simply list the available finishes, either in a sentence or as bullet points. Don’t think of this as dull copy. Think of it as factual, accurate copy that respects the specifier and their job, the decision-making process that ascertains whether one finish is more appropriate than another for their application.
Here’s an example where ‘not only… but (also)’ could be used legitimately:
Our bar was in a central location with direct access from the street, so we required a floor covering to not only withstand high traffic but also offer ease of maintenance, said manager James Willis.
Here, the ease of maintenance is related to the durability.
Don’t exaggerate with ‘not only… but also’
A backdrop to this article is the need for objectivity in construction marketing, particularly in writing style and tone of voice. I firmly believe that less exaggeration and more factual information is important for a construction audience.
One last example of good ‘not only’ usage:
The Lumixia street lighting range is designed to perform not only at night, when the light affects the streetscape, but also during the day, when the fittings need to blend well into the area.
I like this one because the lighting’s primary function (to provide illumination) is flagged up first, while the secondary point – the attractive design of the fittings themselves – builds upon it. I also like the way this piece of copy subtly references the benefits of attractive product design without over-egging it. Too often products are described as ‘stunning’ or referred to using bizarre abstract language that would be better off used for haute couture fashion.
So when using ‘not only… but also’, remember:
- that the two points must be related
- that one must build on the other
- and you are not using it simply to exaggerate your marketing