Monday, January 12, 2009

Editing Tip of the Week: Negative into Positive

It is best to phrase a negative statement in a positive form. This bit of advice works well whether you're arguing with a friend or writing a story. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style advises making definite assertions, and illustrates how weak and dissatisfying the word not is to a reader.

Writing a sentence like He was not always on time wastes words as well as illustrates what Elements of Style deems an inherent weakness in the word not. Why bother your readers with a clunky, passive sentence when He was usually late gets right to the point? Using the word ignore has a bigger impact than using a boring phrase like Do not pay any attention to.

When describing something or someone, readers want a visual image; when you eliminate instead of add, the canvas remains blank in the reader's mind. Stating that someone is distrustful is more concise than saying I do not have much confidence in her. As the Elements of Style shows, readers would rather know what is than what is not.

For more tips, visit and

No comments:

Post a Comment